These words are for my peers. Not my peers of age, or gender, or profession, but my peers in what I call “fortunateness” – the millions of people in the Western world and elsewhere who have enough – enough material goods, enough shelter, enough to eat, enough health, enough leisure, and enough options of how to spend their enough leisure.
The basic principle of what I’m calling fortunateness is simple. It comes with the recognition that we are on Earth for some purpose other than to accumulate more. Once we have accomplished the basics, the ones that not all, but many of us already have, another possibility becomes available: The possibility of using one’s energy and resources for both self-discovery and service to those who have yet to gain those benefits of which we have already been recipients. This element of service is especially critical in these times of health uncertainty and reexamination of racial inequities. In fact, this basic principle of fortunateness maintains that peace of mind and fulfillment will only come to us through the pursuit of this next step, and all our attempts to avoid it by seeking new and regurgitating old reasons to re-accumulate and re-establish our well-being will lead to nothing but frustration and emptiness.
Many people think that others have enough, but that they themselves need just-a-little-more to put them in the category of the fortunate. For those of you to whom this applies, I am suggesting an alternate possibility: Whatever loose ends you may see as having to be tied up before you can embark on this new journey, you may already have enough ends tied up. The very fact that you have as many ends tied as you do may be evidence that you are ready to take part in a next step of discovery and of lending support to those who have been denied the opportunities that we have been granted.
We ask so many questions about our own physical well-being, about our environmental, political, social, and financial well-being. Yes, sometimes we even question the external injustices and corruption that plague others in our society. Certainly these questions are important, but we fail to see that there is also an enemy within that is not being addressed by our questions, and subsequently it is not being addressed by our answers.
The dangers are not only coming from without, they are also coming from within. You are the enemy. You are also the ally. You have to learn to distinguish between the way in which you are your worst enemy, and the way in which you are your best friend.
Some of us formulate our personal aims quite practically – for self-improvement, for example. Some aspire to more esoteric interpretations – religious, spiritual, and transcendent. All these objectives are possible for us, but are not yet an actuality for us. Between our present existence and our finer aspirations are what could be described as self-destructive attitudes and practices. Since these tendencies are not innate, through examination and inner work we have the possibility of leaving them behind.
Here is a list of ten freedoms from self-destructive tendencies that are worth seeking:
1) Freedom from identification with negative emotions
2) Freedom from a distorted sense of our own importance
3) Freedom from self-deception and dishonesty
4) Freedom from the misconception of responsibility
5) Freedom from fear of other people’s opinions
6) Freedom from unexamined concepts
7) Freedom from mechanical behavior
8) Freedom from fear of relinquishing control
9) Freedom from fear of material loss
10) Freedom from unconscious imitation
Though this list of impediments may appear merely to reflect defects in our personality, they represent the first obstacles to the state to which we all aspire. It is important for us to understand that the realization of these goals is not just our fancy. It is, in fact, the birthright of all human beings. It is our birthright.