Oh, the good life, full of fun seems to be the ideal
Mm, the good life lets you hide all the sadness you feel
— Lyrics from The Good Life *
Beyond the level of sustenance, our predicament is this: Nature together with its civilization provides the opportunity to live a life of our own design — and many of us seize the opportunity. Yet, our achievements, by themselves, are only half of the solution to the autonomous imperative.
The other half of the solution — that the design be our own — requires a special focus.
In the light of the inescapable challenge to exercise our autonomy and engage the opportunity (and danger) of our natural and civilized habitat, we offer Autonomy and Life, classes and coursework focused on creating a life of our own design. To miss out on the opportunity of this challenge is to miss out on the excitement that comes with embracing the full force of our nature while engaging the nature, history and language of our civilization.
Right now in America a great number of us have access to the means to enjoy living above the level of mere sustenance. That is, we have the means to enjoy the good life.
However, striving to live the good life brings about a specific problem, namely: What is the good life? Now that we have the means, what is our reason for being?
In the main, how to live the good life seems to speak for itself, and because it is so widely promoted it can easily be described in two words: trendy status. In a variety of forms, both conspicuous and subtle, the good life means — rather simply — being on trend, and the sooner we are in on it, the better. So, what is our reason for being? It’s obvious. Being on trend!
Just as the opening lyrics do, we call this obviousness into question. We are concerned that this faux objectivity leads us not toward but away from living a life of our own design. Though advertised and promoted by its political, economic and social sellers and paraded by its consumers, it is self-evident only to the ego that the good life is realized by “being on trend.”
In fact, we are not our egos. We are nature’s subjects and nature didn’t give us an ego to design and oversee our lives. In short, our personal oversight can be attributed to the nature of our nature and to our forms of living, i.e., not to our egos.
When you kiss your ego goodbye, the popularly objectified and very trendy good life is no longer self-evident as the reason for being. In other words, when you’re without the mysterious substance of an ego, how you want to pursue status — your identity — is by means of an uninhibited access to the full force of your nature in your effort to create a life of your own design.
And, ironically, far from being merely a passing fad, autonomy has been trending in various pockets of the cultural milieu for centuries. Indeed, the life you want is actually made possible when you identify not with your ego but with your autonomy; that is, when you identify with the creative effort you put into the architecture of your personal space and the artistry of your personal choice.
Arnold Siegel is the founder of Autonomy and Life and the leader of its Retreat Workshops and Advanced Classes.
* Originally La Belle Vie, a song by French singer Sacha Distel, it is known in the English-speaking world as The Good Life and was made popular by Tony Bennett in 1963.