A score is kept for some of life’s prizes. Though there’s no Scoreboard in the sky, our acquisitions and accomplishments are driven, compared and ranked by an omnipresent display of cultural politics in the form of positive and negative social conditioning.
These yea or nay comparisons are displayed in our vocabularies, assertions and “likes,” in the catalogues we look at, the news we read, the trends we keep track of and in what we want to be acknowledged for. They remind us of how well we are doing compared to, well, just about everything. Our neighbors, our peers, our siblings, the expectation of our parents or tech wizards and other billionaires.
You name it. And you know where you stand.
The socially conditioned comparisons of our acquisitions and accomplishments may stimulate productivity, but just as often, as you well know, they produce anxiety and worry. Still, how you compete for these particular prizes is an individual matter and if you want to go for it, so be it. Given the ruthless competitive challenges we all face as well as the pleasure of life’s comforts, it makes good sense to be successful with your various roles.
But beware: A lopsided preoccupation with these comparisons neglects other important factors in living a meaningful, personally rewarding life, a life of your own design. It fails to motivate you to take a deeper cut at the profundity of your way of being, your subjective journey and the quality of your experience.
For this reason — for the substance and balance that a successful life demands — Autonomy and Life offers an extended study program to those Americans who wish to explore its philosophy and who recognize the critical importance of devoting a lifetime to cultivating a certain focused intelligence — what we believe to be one of life’s most valuable prizes.
The historical purpose of our discipline is to contribute our unique analytic perspective to the nation’s efforts with instantiating the practice of responsible autonomy in the lives of its citizens.
We believe we have created a referential framework with which we Americans can learn to manage our autonomy and life by relating our cognitive, communicative and coordinative behavior to the transformational context in which we find ourselves.
Shunning metaphysics, our philosophy has us, alternately in contemplative and pragmatic endeavor, come to terms with our existence and finitude and with accepting responsibility for the social condition to which all Americans are subject, the reasoned, rational and sentimental refinement of our sub-rational, immediate and determined responsiveness.
When we keep our eyes on this prize, we recognize the importance of our ability to thrive as a human being, of an independent mind, of trustworthiness and integrity, of our accountability to those to whom we have obligations and of our capacity to contribute to the human prospect.
We also recognize how important it is to acquire the emotional and rational capital that will help us through fear, discouragement and loss; the kind of autonomous authority and uncommon confidence that highlights the experience of well-being; the kind of consciousness that is displayed by expansiveness—generosity, gratitude and compassion; and the kind of substance that shows up as resilience.
In the absence of this acquisition, as often happens, we may lose creative control of the life we hoped for, squander many opportunities to contribute to others and forego the transcendent joys of this art, a private felt experience of the gift and promise of a refined and meaningful life.
Arnold Siegel is the founder of Autonomy and Life and the leader of its Retreat Workshops and Advanced Classes. Visit autonomyandlife.com for more information.