By Adam J. Pearson
Many, or if I may say so, most people have certain fundamental delusions on which they rely in order to maintain their sanity and will to go on living. Our beliefs often become crutches that we dare not question because we don’t want to face the possibility that they might not be true. And yet, a life liberated from our comfortable beliefs and assumptions may be the very life we most deeply want and need to live.
Many of us cannot imagine living in a world in which the basic beliefs we have been told since childhood are absolutely true and beyond all doubt are in fact totally false. We have difficulty facing a world of which we are not the center, in which society’s ultimate values of ‘economic success’ and ‘fame’ are insignificant and meaningless, and in which our gods are not all-powerful beings, but impotent imaginary friends. It is hard for us to assume full responsibility for our lives and walk with bold self-reliance when we can depend on the crutches of our comfortable beliefs to hold us up.
We find it much less terrifying to simply play a role in a script given to us by our culture, a play that we act out on the stage of society, than to write our own roles for ourselves. We find it easier to conform than to stand as what psychologist Carl Jung called fully ‘individuated’ people, true individuals, or what Nietzsche called ‘ubermenschs’ who define their own values and principles and live by them. And yet, finding our own voice, our own path, our own character, our own ‘Tao’ or Way through life, our own role in the world, is the most significant task that we can tackle in our fleeting lives.
Many live and die without ever answering the fundamental question of “who am I and what will I do with my brief time on this Earth?” We must not join their ranks. We must not choose the cowardly, easy way over the way that maximizes our true potential, that allows us to become what we truly want and yearn to be. We must stand not with the puppets and the copies, but with the individuals, the bold ones, the brave heroes, the wise sages, the creators, the trailblazers. For it is up to each of us to blaze our own trail through the wild and wonderful world.
Others can advise us, but no one can carve our unique and individual path out for us; to be authentic, it must come from us. Only when we find our own way and live it to the best of our ability, philosophers from Plato to Aristotle, Calvin, and Dewey have assured us, will our life attain its fullest potential, its highest levels of fulfillment, its most powerful qualities. Only then, can we live and act with the ‘wu wei‘ (effortless action) of the sage and the mindful passion of the master of ‘carpe diem,’ who seizes the day and the moment and embraces every atom of life until their last breath escapes their lips. Only then can we truly become ourselves and make our lives, at least for a while, truly our own.