An Authentic Life

An Authentic Life

There comes a time when soul-making is quite painful. Each person has something they are meant to do in this mortal coil. When that calling cannot be pursued due to the circumstances of life, Soul is deeply despondent. One begins to blame oneself, as if our egoic self could somehow change our lot in life. The worst punishment is to possess a gift and not be able to cultivate it properly. Then one must ask, why even bestow the gift if one is destined to languish in life’s mundanities to the point where the acorn rots on the ground, or is eaten by some hungry animal?

In America, we tend to think of our destiny as being intimately connected with our vocation. That’s not altogether true. James Hillman said,

. . .calling can refer not only to ways of doing — meaning work — but also to ways of being. Take being a friend. Goethe said that his friend Eckermann was born for friendship. Aristotle made friendship one of the great virtues. In his book on ethics, three or four chapters are on friendship. In the past, friendship was a huge thing. But it’s hard for us to think of friendship as a calling, because it’s not a vocation (On Soul, Character and Calling: A Conversation with James Hillman).

The notion that our destiny is all about our vocation is undoubtedly a product of the Western fascination with the Calvinist work ethic. As long as we’re “working hard” and making lots of money for the corporation, then God is pleased with us and all is right with the world. This is one of the most egregious examples of brainwashing in the history of mankind! It has resulted in millions, perhaps billions, of people missing their true callings in life. What with all the products we’ve been talked into buying, we must work constantly to keep up with the costs involved. Instead of really living, really being, and carrying out that which we are destined to fulfill, we strive constantly to make our plutocratic overseers even more wealthy.

Our world cries out for its inhabitants to be exactly what they are meant to be. An authentic life, as Heidegger is wont to say, is preferable over an inauthentic life. These are two modes of Being, in Heidegger’s thought. Most of us live a life of inauthenticity, which, in my opinion, includes obsessions over sports, reality TV, celebrities, and various other mundanities. What would our world be like if we all had the opportunity to cultivate and grow the seeds within us to full fruition? Then, our world would flourish with Being, with Soul!

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