“Every moment in your life is a turning and every one a choosing. Somewhere you made a choice. All followed to this. The accounting is scrupulous. The shape is drawn. No line can be erased … And the shape of your path was visible from the beginning.” Cormac McCarthy *
Too solemn? Too grave? No. It’s a fair warning.
Life is a never-ending series of choices but those we choose to focus on—what car to buy, whether or not to remodel the home—may not be the most important, not the signifiers we want them to be. The game changers are those choices that determine who we become.
Yet, it is a fact that the prevailing conceptual reality into which we are inserted is not concerned with the individuation and fulfillment of our personal autonomy.
What is typically wanted in the marketplace and community are individuals disciplined enough to fit into the machinery of production and consumption that forwards the gross natural product. As such, using a variety of incentives, the prevailing modus operandi pressures us to submit to an advertised, branded and hyperbole-filled version of autonomy.
This pressure to conform is intense, convincing and collusive. At the effect of its implied promise that cooperation with its premises will make life meaningful and secure, we become party to its shallow secret and measure our worth and self-possession in terms of our acquisition of its stuff and its display. That is, we abandon our responsibility for ourselves—our fate—and settle for the advertised forms of autonomy.
In the main, no public shame accompanies the unexamined and timid life. We pay the price for our complacent and ignoble moments privately and existentially. The price is the dissonance, disillusionment and absence of spontaneity that accompany a shallow expression of our autonomy and life.
In my book and in my retreat workshops and advanced classes, I offer an outside perspective on the inside of the narrative with which we describe ourselves. As well, I address the thinking needed to refine the sense and sensibilities that would resonate more naturally with our complex subjectivity. Exceeding the conventional narrative based on conformity, mimicry, and timidity, I capture the significance to our autonomy and life that we are in fact nature's subjects.
I refer to nature's subjects because each of us is subject to the life-giving and demanding nature of nature. We are also subject to the choice-heavy nature of the autonomous imperative. Despite the omnipresent pressure to conform, the sensate fact of our subjective experience of life calls upon us to keep with equanimity and responsibility the independence of our own contemplation and counsel. This unique individuation of our personhood is a function of creative construction, a responsible recognition of and receptivity to the coalescence of nature, history and language.
Our choices are up to us and us alone. While we recognize that we are one among many, we also recognize our particularity, our idiosyncrasy, our difference. Believing in the artistry of personal choice is a stand key to the authentic structure of taking responsibility for ourselves. In sum, then, who we become is inextricably wrapped up in the artistry of choice.
Are you interested in having more autonomy in your life? Here's a plan of action! Examine our website. If you find it interesting, do the Retreat Workshop. If your interest continues, do our Advanced Classes. Thank you for your interest. I appreciate it.
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.