As young man, a skeptic, and a follower of Jesus of Nazareth, I struggle to think and act in a way that is consistent with a set of core values while constantly seeking to develop, refine, and discover a set of core values in the first place. Life, in the absence of a clearer term, is complicated. Believe it or not, the systems of belief on which most people ground their decision making and personalities are unique to them and based on personal intuition, not on unassailable truths and not on valid authorities.
Understanding this quality about myself is not easy and coming to terms with it is a daily struggle in which I backslide constantly. Progress is deceptive, always relative, always uncertain, always suspect as such. What is necessary for a person to be “real” with themselves is a willingness to let go of opinions, beliefs, even values, in a continual process of returning to a foundation. This hurts more often than not, and letting go of certainties always makes hope a little harder.
So why is this process worth the effort or consideration? One may observe details of their own life for support or dismissal, I personally have found overwhelming support for the value of a recurring return to emptiness. “It is only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything”. As the world increasingly accepts a social doctrine of relative truths, it seems that:
A) the noble, righteous, and just of humanity’s past are remembered as historical occurrences alone or forgotten altogether.
B) the accumulated wisdom of how to live one’s life well (in all of that idea’s possible variations) are disregarded as opinions and biases to be marginalized against the necessity of “choice”.
C) those aspects of human experience which make our uncertain and difficult lives worth living, namely joy, love, connection, creativity, achievement, and well-being, are becoming scarce treasures or distant memories, after thoughts to the priorities of production, security, and individuality.
Constantly returning to a baseline of judgement and evaluating oneself on criteria which place value in those moments, triumphs, and experiences such as love and connection reveals how vacuous and deceitful our world has become. Such contemplation exposes the lies we tell ourselves and choose to believe about what is important in life and how we should engage in personal growth and contribute to our brothers and sisters in society. What emerges isn’t a set of absolute truths, but neither is it a set of relative ones.
Considering yourself and your actions carefully in this way leads not to hardline truths but to understandings. In self-examination one learns not the right way to behave but are conscious of a process of behaving. Not what to think but how to think. Not knowledge of the world but knowledge of the self.
Significance or meaning, as I understand it, is an emergent property of identity. Something or someone’s purpose is tied to those things which give it difference and function. In one’s potential to create their identity is found the potential to derive purpose. Thus knowledge of the self through creation of the self is simultaneous with discovery and acting out of life’s purpose. It is the unique quality of human life that living humans create themselves.