Let’s Take a Walk to the Golden Mean or Self-actualisation?

It’s just another exam day in SK and more time to contemplate?

Life doesn’t need to be navigated with lessons, it can just be intuitive?

We set simplistic targets, autonomy from parents; an OK satisfying job; developing relationships. As we grow older we consider our mortality, until one day we go to the grave and with that the business of life is over.

Is life as simple as that? Is it useful to have somewhere to turn? For the 2,000 plus years of western civilization, philosophy meant self-help. Epicurus wrote a few hundred self-help books; On Love, On Justice and On Human Life. The Stoic Seneca advised his fellow Romans how to cope with anger (On Anger). Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations, warrants consideration as one of the finest self-help directives ever devised. It is particularly relevant today, as many of us face financial meltdown whilst the disintegration of Western capitalist empires gathers pace.

Religion’s well documented failings (the warring Muslim, Jewish, and Christian faiths, Catholic priests, the Pope, heads buried in sand, Man United and all that!) were supplemented by the modern university system, the 18th century womb of philosophers and intellectuals. An increasingly secularised society has emphasised that we simply need common sense, a talented accountant, a good GP and an obsessive faith in science to live and die successfully. Children weren’t supposed to need lectures in how to stay calm, free from anxiety and thoughts of suicide. We thought they could all achieve self-actualisation as we provided everything that they could want! Our Conservative, New Labour, materialistic, right of centre view was that their hierarchy of needs would definitely be fulfilled.

Post crash, world recession and a failing social policy make us consider, what do we think now?  Seneca put it so well, “What need is there to weep over parts of life? The whole of it calls for tears.” The media is full of self-help DVD’s, training, books and web-sites designed to “fix” us.  We have turned full circle, we work to live which consequently sends us to the grave (often) unfulfilled.  Aristotle thought that happiness is the goal of life…..fine! He believed that the greatest human endeavour is the use of reason in theoretical activity…..reason with you, OK! One of his best known ideas was his concept of “The Golden Mean” — “avoid extremes,” the counsel of moderation in all things, how bloody dull! Alternatively, Selfactualisation is the quest to become or feel the best you can by deciding what you want from life and then doing what is necessary to get it.

“A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be. This is the need we may call self-actualisation … It refers to man’s wish for fulfillment, namely to the tendency for him to become actually in what he is potentially: to become everything that one is capable of becoming …” Maslow noted only one in a hundred people become fully self-actualised because our society rewards motivation primarily based on esteem, love and other social needs. Maslow had his own opinion of Aristotle’s teachings; he stated that we have learned… that self-actualisation cannot be attained by intellect or rationality alone. You remember that Aristotle had a hierarchy of human capacities in which reason took the top place. Along with this went inevitably the notion that reason contrasted with, struggled with, and was at odds with human emotional and instinctive nature. But we have learned… that we must modify considerably our picture of the psychological organism to respect equally rationality, emotionality, and the conative or wishing and driving side of our nature. Furthermore… we have learned these are definitely not at odds with each other, that these sides of human nature are not necessarily antagonistic but can be cooperative and synergic.

How about you the reader? Is your current job part of your path or are you following what you were told to do; or the alternative to unemployment? Remember sometimes the path to self-actualisation may be a path that no one wants you to follow, but you. Sometimes the bad ideas might be the best idea. I am not advocating making reckless decisions, but I am telling you to take a risk. Those risks will lead you to a path that you may have never seen. It’s ok to step outside of your comfort zone. It is scary doing so, but leaving your comfort zone will show you a lot of things about yourself.  God Botherers may say self-actualisation is about the “me” generation but they miss the point as it can refer to psychological well-being and not materialistic. The Safety & Security aspect of the theory holds greater significance when related to the needs of a child than a well-balanced, positive, creative, spontaneous and open-minded individual.

Listen to that wise voice in your head, your conscience, and don’t be a follower of tribes. Think for yourself; develop, articulate and follow your own values. Learn about whom you are as a person, don’t become what others “think” you should be.  Develop and follow your own tastes in music, art and literature and immerse yourself in the great natural things that you have around every day.  Use your own intelligence and learn to think for yourself. Refuse to have your opinions’ suppressed providing they do not impinge negatively on others and stimulate positive debate. Don’t make soap operas the highlight of your day (PMM, JR and many others, call yourselves teachers?). Challenge your mind and create new things. Get your own sources of news and read widely. Make self-education and learning a lifetime activity. Most importantly follow your instincts and do not become “stuck” in the cycle of working to live. One last point to consider, as you move towards your goal you will be able to count your true friends on one hand but they will have been worth the effort!