Constitutional America is a unique experiment. Its origin and authority is alive in “We, the people of the United States,” a guiding principle that echoes the Declaration of Independence’s intention to create a sovereign nation-state separate from English control and to secure the blessings of liberty for all.
To comprehend America is to recognize it as the nation that invented the path to human liberty and equality, even as it tempered our natural competitiveness through the individual and collective practice of liberal democracy and responsible autonomy.
Along with such opportunity comes, of course, America’s demand that its citizens manage the civilized behavior they are required to engage as they create a life of their own design. While such a demand for self-government seems reasonable and fair enough, each of us knows in practice just how difficult it is to manage the immediate sub-rational responsiveness that emerges in any competitive arena.
Everything else being equal, making it in America depends on the development of our conviction in the value of the Constitutionally supported American ego-function. This conviction is crucial because the structure of the American ego-function is the referential authority for the practice of responsible autonomy.
Said another way, our chances of making it in America depend in large part on the degree of competence with which we manage our ego-function. Competence here refers to our ability to rein in exploitive, duplicitous and other unsocial behaviors, to metabolize the embarrassment and disappointment that accompanies competitive defeats and to get back to work in countless fields of endeavor, e.g., as employees, employers, homemakers and entrepreneurs.
Among the means we need to manage our ego-function as we compete for position is our ability to reset our determinism. This will require us to reconfigure our ego-function.
What does it mean to reconfigure our ego-function? It means that we no longer base it on inherited illusions that who we are is actually separate (intuitively and knowledgably) from our material selves and material reality and are thus somehow exempt from the down-to-earth demands on the American citizen. This outdated metaphysically construed ego-function too often licenses bad behaviors and cruelties and labors under self-righteous delusions in service of what it claims to be its special take on the truth.
The purpose of Autonomy and Life is twofold. It addresses those who seek to leverage their talents, skills, education and experience in their practice of extending and defending themselves in the competitive arenas that define America.
And it addresses those who seek to avoid the bitter discontent that inevitably accompanies the misidentification of the ego-function as a foundational entity that exists metaphysically apart from the demand upon each of us to adapt to the requirements of practical existence in America’s subjective ecosystem.
Needless to say, America is not perfect and the assaults on its Constitutional foundations are never-ending. Yet when we study the philosophy of Autonomy and Life and make our way in the world in the space of its artful ontology, we gain the sense that the Constitutionally supported American ego-function does allow for the full range of our creative intelligence.
The development of our conviction in the ego-function’s value and the expansion of our skills in its practice is actually an enlightening and deeply felt fulfilling experience that energizes our desire to be as useful as we can be in service of the American commitment to freedom and equality.
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.