Having the privilege of listening to people work through the complications of their lives gives me a sense of the larger movement of social thought. While our task is to pay attention to the specifics of each life, each day, and each moment in each day, we have in common the historical circumstances we inhabit. As we face the profound changes in our government, the global economic situation, health care worries, and climate change, we make the local choices we can to live what feels to us to be a good, in the sense of ethical, life.
Fundamentally, regardless of the wishes and moods of the specific moment, each person becomes grounded and satisfied to the extent that those local choices are congruent with his or her deepest values. For most people, the experience of feeling like a good person is a necessary backdrop to the complexity of everyday life.
Sometimes if we have not taken the time to recognize what is important to us, we can be living a life that is satisfying on one level but out of sync on a deeper level. We can be doing work that we are good at, but that does not match what we think is important. We can be engaging in relationships that are easy but not deeply significant. We can be spending our free time in activities that occupy or entertain us but that do not provide any constructive experience or effect.
It is not necessarily obvious or simple to know deeply what we value. We have received from our upbringing a certain way of looking at the world and a set of values that goes with that. But we have also had life experiences along the way that may have caused us to question those received values or to change our perspective. We may have thought about it or we may not have noticed those changes. We might have personal opinions that alter our basic received assumptions about what is important.
Recently, in listening, I have noticed how important it is for each person to come to know him or herself deeply, and most essentially, on the level of what is important and where they want to put the energy of their lives. Taking the time to be reflective is a sometimes forgotten need. There are many ways to do that, and including a clear minded examination of inner arguments can be a helpful one.