Think about it. Impersonality is at the heart of nature. Despite valentines, champagne and poetry, the universe is indifferent to us. We desire meaning and fulfillment but we find ourselves within a world and condition that initially offers neither.
We start only with the willfulness that drives our raw nature and immediacy. Yet, up from these assertive creeping, crawling and impersonal antecedents, much of the world is what we humans have made of it.
We make a difference because for us biology is only the first thrust of existence. We also come from an extraordinary history of creativity. Our investigation and enactment of this rich and wide perspective has propelled us toward cares, concerns and resources well beyond those stipulated by raw nature and immediacy.
Indeed, this is why you study autonomy and life. Such study doesn’t exempt you from nature’s indifference, of course. You are very much at the effect of its laws. Moreover, you can’t help but realize that you are also at the effect of historically shaped social rules and conventions that constrain and impel your decisions and choices.
Yet, your study enables you to be a legitimate determinant in the arrangement of your life and a positive factor in the possibilities for others. Said another way, yes, you are whipsawed between nature’s brute programming and America’s civilizing demands upon its citizens. Still, via your study and practice, you have achieved a graceful balance of authority and acceptance and, at the same time, extended your care and concern into the larger world.
No one would deny that all of us live in challenging times. But it is a fact that human beings have always lived in challenging and, for many, desperate times. We struggle with the world’s uncaring disasters (its droughts, floods, fires, famines and earthquakes). And we struggle with the fears and disappointments of the “me first and foremost” ego.
Neither the universe-at-large nor the social realities of life really attend to our personal temperaments, personalities or intellects. When life is made meaningful and fulfilling, when affinity is felt, when our nation feels like a home to its diverse collection of people, it is because we took up the challenge to extend ourselves beyond our initial reach.
You and I are especially mindful of and deeply thankful for the privileges, gifts and luck to which we’ve had access as well as the opportunity to create a life of our own design. Yet, you and I are also well aware that such a favorable possibility for each and every one of us is yet to be determined.
By what measure and manner will your sympathy for the human condition and circumstance and your hope that all of us may live a life of our own design give voice and substance to this possibility?
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.