Living in the World not of the World

Living in the World not of the World

I have been thinking of how I interact with the world around me and whether I am living my values. Am I treating people with respect? Am I acting calmly and responsibly without getting upset over things I have no control of? Am I being a good steward of the resources that are within my control?

We all need to take inventory of our lives from time to time, really look deep, to see if we are living in line with our deepest values. We shouldn’t need a government, or authority figure, to tell us if we are living correctly. Our values come from within us, and being a good person should be a natural course that supports right human living and flourishing. It should bring out our best and it should always be about respecting others, because it is in our own interest to do good for others.

When I was younger I bought into the Objectivist notion of selfishness as a virtue. For those who are unfamiliar with this thought Google Objectivism and Ayn Rand. The basic premise is that a person must first and foremost do what is right based on the individual’s beliefs and that serving one’s own needs is the highest value because it is in serving one’s needs that one can truly survive and flourish. I see this now as a very immature and small view of the world, and it misses the fullness and goodness of human existence.

I have come to realize that although individual rights are important, they are important because every individual, not just myself, is unique and important. They may not be important to me, but they are important to themselves and to those who love them, just as I am important to myself and those who love me. Individualism becomes important in not seeing people as faceless masses that can be corralled, controlled, and treated as like, but in acknowledging the differences between people, respecting those differences, and finding ways to live cooperatively and peaceful in spite of, and in recognition of, those differences.

Stephen Covey in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People makes a very clear distinction – in order to fully realize our best, and achieve our highest ends we must pass through stages of being from dependence, to independence, and finally to interdependence. When we are dependent we can never control our own destiny, as we are too reliant on others for our sense of value and purpose. When we are independent we realized our self worth and begin to work to create our own values and purpose. When we are interdependent we begin to understand our connectedness to others and realize the amazing power of cooperation. We begin to understand that we don’t have to give up our own unique individual existence in order to live a life that is in service to self, while being in service to others. When we realize that there is as much benefit in doing something with the help of others as accomplishing something on our own, we begin to realize how much more we can accomplish, and how much more fully we can live.

My wish is to live in the world unencumbered with my own anxiety and doubt, unconcerned with the things that I cannot changed, and always focused on the positive ways in which I can affect change in the world while working with others, building relationships, and sharing the joy of life with others.

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