Integrity: What Constitutes a Good Life?

“People who lead a satisfying life, who are in tune with their past and with their future- in short, people whom we would call “happy” – are generally individuals who have lived their lives according to rules they themselves created.” 

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Psychologist and Author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

The following isn’t the best written thing, it is certainly not gender-neutral, but on the subject of Integrity, it does makes it’s point.  I understand that this is from an NGO in Mahashastra District of India and was written sometime in the early 1970’s as far as I can find out.  In fact, there are a couple of things I will quote in this post that I have lost the source material for in a flood of my office a couple of years ago.  I’ve used these quotations in courses I taught for ministers and others doing spiritual leadership coursework.

Maliwada Human Development Training School


We are going to visit the arena of Profound Humanness called “Integrity”.  Sometimes “integrity” is reduced to mean a kind of moral uprightness and steadfastness, in the sense of saying, “He has too much integrity to ever take a bribe.”
 But profound integrity goes far beyond this. Sometimes, in order to distinguish it from more limited popular usage, it is called “secondary integrity”. This is the integrity which is not constrained by limited moralities, however well-intentioned. The integrity that is profound living is the singularity of thrust of a life committed and ordering every dimension of the self towards that commitment. Thus the self is in fact shaped by the self, and focused towards that commitment. You can say that an audacious creation of the self takes place in integrity, without which you are simply the creation of the various forces impacting you in your society.
 Thus the basis of integrity is a destinal resolve – a resolve that chooses and sets your destiny and out of which your whole life is ordered. The object of that resolve is the ultimate decision of each person, and each person makes that choice, consciously or unconsciously. To do so with awareness is the height of man’s responsibility. It is incarnate freedom. It is what real freedom looks like. When man has thus exercised his freedom he realizes that to be true to himself ever thereafter he has a unique position to look at the values of his society.  He is no longer bound by the opinions and codes of his fellow-man, but reevaluates then on the basis of their impact on his destinal resolve.
Thus the man of integrity is continuously engaged in a societal transvaluation, a moving across the values of society and reinterpreting them in line with his life’s thrust. It does not give him the liberty of ignoring his society, but his obligation transcends the conformity of living within the codes and mores of his society. Thus the man of profound integrity always seems to not quite fit with his fellow-men, but his actions always are appropriate for him, even to those who oppose him.
No matter how odd the man of profound integrity appears to his neighbors, he experiences himself as securely anchored. While he is very clear that this world is not his home, nevertheless he experiences himself as having found his native vale. He experiences an eternal at-one-ness, not so much with the currents and waves of activity around him, but with the deeper trends of history itself. Amid the flux of wavering to and fro that is so evident in others, he experiences an inexplicable rootedness, as though he has sunk a taproot deep into the foundations of the earth itself. Though he experiences his life as a long journey, even an endless journey, towards the object of his resolve, yet he never senses himself as a stranger on the journey It’s as if he’d been there before. Original integrity is experienced primarily by this sense of at-one-ness.
Kierkegaard once wrote a book about this kind of integrity that he titled,” Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing”. An ancient philosopher focused his wisdom around this integrity with the advice, “Know yourself, and to your own self, be true.”

The Maliwada Statement reminded me of something I had read by Charles Lindbergh (below) that addresses the same kind of awareness and motivation.  I think that when we live our lives as if something located outside of our own experience of living is going to direct us,  or we allow someone else final say over our decision process, we are looking in the wrong places for direction and inspiration.   No matter who we consult, who teaches us, who we listen to, our choices about how we will live our life have far reaching consequences that are precious.

And there is something more to choosing ones life direction than a merely intellectual process or just choosing just what we like, as if we were at the local ice cream shop.  Given the discipline and practice suggested in this reading, we can make choices based in values that are deeply rooted in life itself as it expresses in and through us, and while these are our individual choices, the connection to the whole of life is apparent to us in our heart of hearts.

integrityI know full well that one of the greatest gifts that I’ve been given is that of awareness.  I see things, I hear things, and I feel things that I’ve recognized that other people just don’t notice for some reason.  I truly appreciate this gift, for it gives me so much in life that’s already there, just waiting to be seen.  I can stand still for an hour in a field in the mountains, just seeing things and feeling the air and hearing the sounds.  I love to sit in one place in the city, just watching people go by, wondering what they’re thinking, wondering what that look on her face means, how their lives are going, why he seems so agitated.

Of course, there’s a prerequisite to awareness–we have to slow down.  We have to realize that life is going to go on whether or not we rush around in order to get everything possible done today, and that our own mental, emotional, and physical well being is at stake.  We have a beautiful world that surrounds us, that offers us unlimited opportunities for peace, serenity, learning, helping, getting, feeling, hoping, love–you name it, it’s there in abundant quantities, more than any one of us will never need.  But we have to see it, to acknowledge it’s there, to let it become a part of us by making ourselves a part of it.

Rainer Maria Rilke claimed that there are angels and spirits all around us, but over the course of the history of humankind we’ve pulled away from the things that we used to be able to see clearly; we’ve lost our connection with this planet upon which we live and everything here.  I believe he has a good point–we’re so wrapped up in our jobs and television and movies that we almost never consider what’s here that we can’t see.  And as much as I dislike what the people involved in television have done to our culture (it’s not the television’s fault), I appreciate the show the x-files, for that’s one of the few shows that actually approaches the possibility of there being more than we can see on this planet with intelligence and respect.

Awareness is seeing all around you with different eyes–appreciative eyes, wondering eyes.  It’s knowing what you want out of life (and yes, you have to ask yourself in order to find out) so that you can go after it.  It’s knowing that things change, and that what you want today may not be what you want tomorrow.  It’s looking into the eyes of a friend or another person and realizing that that’s another human being put on this planet with hopes and fears and dreams and desires and needs.

As Rilke says, “perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave.  Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.”  Awareness is the ability to see that the way we see things isn’t necessarily the way things are–for every setback or terrible incident, there may be hundreds of ways to see it.  We have to choose to be able to see many possibilities, many explanations.  If we get caught up in being right all the time, we’ll never have the blessing of being aware.Shut your eyes and you will know what I mean by thought entombed in darkness.  Light comes through the senses, and not only through the sense of sight.  When you see without feeling, you are still partly blind; you lack the inner light that brings awareness.  Awareness requires the interplay of every faculty, the use of your entire being as an eye.

Charles A. Lindbergh

I believe that living a life of deep and full integrity requires this level of holistic awareness.  Carelessness and inattention are anathema to a state of integrity, though I will say, there are times that we have to give it a rest– just for the perspective supplied by a few moments of complete relaxation.

Comments from Open Salon

If you are here, thanks. Please comment and rate, if you like.
Hi Susanne: I also am constantly striving to live a life of
integrity. I believe that being present at all times is the key,
and that’s where the work comes in, it’s so easy to get distracted
and let the mind wander. I think maybe that’s it’s also possible
to relax in a state of integrity and just be.

My spiritual path is a blend of Tibetan Buddhism and Wicca
and I honor all religions at their core.

Compassion is a key element as well. A while ago, when I was
fretful about another person’s reaction to me, a friend told
me “let it go, people do what they do. ” This was an epiphany.
Every one’s point of view is as valid as mine, regardless
of whether or not I agree with them. In a way, that realization
is very freeing for me. However, it can also be a challenge,
because I have to live in my core and to honor myself as well.
I am a strong 9 on the Enneagram, which is all about finding
one’s core.

Thank you for posting this.

I liked this statement best:
I think that when we live our lives as if something located outside of our own experience of living is going to direct us, or we allow someone else final say over our decision process, we are looking in the wrong places for direction and inspiration.
Very thought provoking post. Thank you for posting.
The picture of “Lindy” gave me some qualms when thinking of men (or women) having their own personal integrity outside the norms of their society. Lindberg was a leader in the pre-WWII “America First” (sound familiar?) organization which wanted to keep the US out of the war. His reasoning seemed to be that he agreed with the nazi idea of blood purity.
So what if their integrity is wrong?
It just seems that ideas/principles that you may form in your youth may not be useful your entire life. Making yourself the measure of all life is too egocentric and does not allow for change.
Couldn’t agree more, Rich. Inspiration comes from within.

I recently saw a Benny Hinn telecast where he was preaching
that the audience should not pay attention to their own accomplishments and attributes but instead to give “God”
all the credit. Everyone was enraptured by his dramatic
presentation, many were in tears.


This isn’t about the expresson of ego at all, though that may well seem like it what it is saying to you.

Someone once said a similar thing about Heidegger to me. Since he didn’t “stand up to the Nazis, why should we give his ideas any creedence?” By then I was married to my husband and I knew exactly how lost in his/her work an individual can become. By the time he looked up from his desk, all kinds of horrors were happening all around him. He was so lost in philosophical theories that he was not PRESENT to the circumstances surrounding him. That doesn’t mean that his ideas were bad, but that he wasn’t fully practicing his ideas in his own life. This is a fairly ordinary fact of life for many people, don’t you think?

So here’s the thing: no one isright and good or perfect with every idea that enters their head. But perhaps if you think about the difference between being a person who behaves more like a sheep and someone who can actually do the right thing because they have learned to see what is right for themselves in a self-generating kind of way.

For a simpler, and less morally ambiguous example: when I was a kid I was a slob at home. When I began living on my own it became internally evident to me that it was the quality of my own life that I was creating with my habits. If I treated my home like a dump, who was it that was living in a dump? If I wanted to be treated well by others, how was it that I was treating myself so poorly? How could I expect or anticipate anything other than a mirror image of the conditions that I was creating for myself?

Thanks Rich. It’s nice to see that my point registered.
Dakini, yup, that distraction thing is a big deal, and I think it may very well be what led to the problem that O’Stephanie is grappling with in her answer. Sometimes we just make something more important than it needs to be, and that is one kind of distraction from the practice of presence. Can you name any other kind of distraction?
Susanne—thank you for upping the level of discourse about 10 rungs on the ladder!. Here’s my question: where have you found this noton of integrity in literatire, art or music?
Yes, thank you for your long response to me. Integrity is a wonderful thing. and you’ve posted on it beautifully. I see it in my daughter who is very observant and very good at being true to herself. I agree with you on all of this and just got to thinking.

Your post was thought provoking, so I did go off on a tangent of sorts. Did not mean to go off topic so much. I suppose that I was thinking of claims of personal integrity by those who would extend their guiding principle to others. And I also wonder how some tightly held beliefs might blind you to alternative perspectives but, like you say, if a person is observant then it would not present a problem.

I think that Ken Wilber goes after it with Integral Theory, for instance. Friends of mine who are artists certainly do. Mary Moore Bailey, art shown on a post on my blog earlier this month.

Those are the people that volunteer to exercise our responsibility for us.

The law provides for such a thing formally in a power of attorney., but most of us would never think of leaving one in place except under extraordinary conditions such as illness or lack of capacity.

“Thus the man of integrity is continuously engaged in a societal transvaluation, a moving across the values of society and reinterpreting them in line with his life’s thrust. It does not give him the liberty of ignoring his society, but his obligation transcends the conformity of living within the codes and mores of his society.”

A simple test of your conformity:
Suppose that you are driving in a place such as the great plains or the Nevada desert, where you can see clearly for miles in all directions. Ahead of you is an intersection with another highway, and there is a stop sign for the road you are on.

You look both right and left, and see that there is no one on the crossing highway, nor is there anyone approaching nor following you. Do you:

1. Obey the law. Stop before crossing.
2. Slow down, perhaps even to a “rolling stop” before proceeding through the intersection.
3. Just drive right through without stopping or slowing.

I maintain that if you choose either 1 or 2, you are not taking respomsibility for your own actions, but are allowing an outside force to make decisions for you. Are you really content to have some paint on a sheet of metal afixed to a post (the stop sign) direct your actions? Or do you trust the integrity of your own decision making?

Observing the law can be a self-generated decision Wayne.
Music: Stuart Davis, Saul Williams
Art: website for artist Pamela Sukhum
Alex Grey (I think you can find a book by him online)
Mary Moore Bailey, painter,
“Observing the law can be a self-generated decision Wayne.”

My point exactly. In my opinion, and if I understand him correctly, in Perls’s as well, ALL decisions are “self-generated”. The question isn’t whether they come from within, but to what extend are they reflective of your own self-interest. In the example I gave, the decision to obey the law is plainly a submission to outside authority, with no actual examination of any public safety considerations.

Self-interest doesn’t necessarily come from anywhere but within the individual. Even if we do take into consideration what the law is, we can observe for inner directed reasons, as we may have a value for cooperation with the law even if we do not agree with the law or like it. Or we can do it because “they said so.” The latter is not a self-generated position, but is other directed.

But no matter what our motivations, we are ultimately responsible for our own acts, no matter whether we are inner or outer directed. Thus, “I was following orders” was not considered a defense for genocide during the Nuremburg trials, for instance.

“Self-interest doesn’t necessarily come from anywhere but within the individual.”

I expect that you can leave the word “necessarily” out of that statement.

And, yes, I was referring to Fritz Perls. I used the last name only, as it passes the “Google test”. Search on it and his is the only surname reference returned in the first page.

Now you have me remembering what I got out of the Gestalt Group I participated in during my 20’s. “You do your thing and I do my thing and if we get together it’s groovy.” Kind of what you said Wayne.

I wonder, do we now realize that life might have a little more urgency than that sounded like it was encouraging us to engage? It’s one thing to be unattached and another to live life uncommitted.

It’s an interesting piece, Susanne, and I don’t want to say I disagree with it in some per se basis. I think the place where it leaves me nervous is that I’d say some sort of analysis of integrity of this kind is a necessary but not sufficient condition to a personal goodness.

It addresses personal needs in a way that is often neglected, so in that sense it’s useful, but it could easily be the tool that allows people to detach themselves from responsibilities that society reasonably imposes upon them. In particular, I could easily imagine someone from the Religious Right subscribing to this as a justification for their intense disregard for not only other individuals but even standing law protecting the rights of others. I could see a member of the leadership of any of a variety of aggressive powers using this as their doctrine. And, at the same time, it could be used by forces for good. It seems, as such, both soothing and pleasant on the one hand and yet quietly dangerous on the other hand because it is lacking in essential constraints to operate standalone as a piece of inspirational guidance, to the extent that it allows flexible manipulation of one’s sense of responsibility to others.

For example, I was careful not to rate that propaganda piece about abortion someone wrote this morning, and I’m being deliberate in not creating a programmatic cross-link to it here, but I did comment on it; but I could easily imagine its author using a creed such as the one above as the justification for his views (to which I did not subscribe).

Or so it seems to me on a first read. Your mileage may, of course, vary.


I get your concern, but I think that most of the people commiting criminal, fraudulent, manipulative or unethical acts in the world, and imposing their views on others are signing up for being the authority relied upon by the people who don’t wish to take direct responsibility for their own acts. What I am talking about might provide a high level of ethical leadership but it wouldn’t provide a good basis for manipulation. Remember those big Moonie weddings? How about the kind of life that the consumer culture intends to impose on us? What about the religiously motivated instances of discrimination and hatred or murder that have been committed throughout history? I honestly think, from my own practice of this idea that it is too rigorous for people who run roughshod over others.

Certainly it is possible that there are those who would pervert any idea, but really, that is no reason to avoid living ones life true to oneself for the rest of us. When we run into the sociopaths, they too provide us lessons in our own practice of living in the present, to our own level of present awareness, to our own choices to live our lives to the highest and best purpose that we can find for them.

Susanne, I don’t deny the existence of sociopaths in our society. But I think a number of the situations you describe are not sociopathic but just people with a misguided sense of patriotism, party loyalty, mission from a perceived God, or other such things. Those actions are not, in my view, sociopathic. (Cue Bill Maher to explain in more detail.) I don’t think modeling them as sociopathic is fair, but that isn’t the reason I care if they’re labeled correctly or not. I care because correctly identifying their nature is critical to predicting them and defending society.

And, once in a while, it’s critical to redirecting society itself when it has gone awry, such as when a nation starts to drive itself bankrupt in an attempt to drive Evil from the world, as the US has done. That’s not sociopathic either, it’s just well-intentioned people pursuing a misguided agenda with an untethered sense of personal integrity standing in the way of their stepping back and seeing what it’s doing to us. In plainer terms, I actually believe that Cheney and Bush and Rumsfeld think they have personal integrity and a noble mission. I wouldn’t be surprised if they would totally endorse the piece above. That’s my point about its not being sufficient to define “Good”.

Perhaps you misunderstood what I meant, or I wasn’t clear. I was talking about a variety of ways that people do miserable things to other people, not just sociopaths.
Also Kent, Christianity requires that you give away your choices to following a prescribed set of commandments. The Nicene Creed requires that you recite certain things as truths that operate within your own life. That hasn’t stopped the likes of Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney et al. And I doubt from the depths of my soul to the bottom of my feet that they would sign up for what I am describing here. It takes too much attention and dedication.
In the spirit of just being the wise ass kid tossing spitballs from the back of the room—while listening to Kent and Susanne’s exchange–I am compelled to wonder who exactly would be the person explaining this point of view to Cheny/Rumsfeld etc—and would that task even be possible!
interesting thoughts. ‘there is no fear in love’: a recent fav. quote of mine.
Chicago Guy, I should have thought of that myself!
You write: What I am talking about might provide a high level of ethical leadership but it wouldn’t provide a good basis for manipulation. 

Yes, and this is much needed. Thank you for your post!


This post certainly presents some interesting philosophical, ethical questions. I found myself wondering how many different interpretations there might be of this writing. Here are some of my thoughts…

***** “This is the integrity which is not constrained by limited moralities, however well-intentioned.”

It seemed that this one simple statement suggests far more than first appeared to me. First, I’m not clear on what “limited moralities” are; limited as opposed to what: unlimited? But the overarching question I had was this: how “well-intentioned” can LIMITED morality be? Why, how, and by whom, would morality be limited?

***** “Thus the basis of integrity is a destinal resolve…”

This statement immediately seemed questionable to me. We often recognize that someone who has strong “resolve” may also exhibit “integrity”. But I don’t know that I accept the premise that resolve is the basis of integrity. I only say this because, depending on how we define the two words, integrity and resolve, they could end up being opposed to one another under some circumstances. As a high-profile, current example of this, Bush’s Iraq invasion; his resolve in that undertaking, in my opinion at least, thoroughly undermined any integrity that he might have had. He was dishonest, and he failed to make any correct decisions; not much integrity to be found on the basis of his resolve.

***** “The object of that resolve is the ultimate decision of each person, and each person makes that choice, consciously or unconsciously.”

I also questioned the efficacy of describing a “choice” as “unconscious”. Doesn’t “choice” necessarily imply consciousness, awareness? Does making an “unconscious” choice refer to choosing based in ignorance, perhaps? I wasn’t sure exactly.

As I read this, the primary assertion, I thought, was that a person of “profound integrity” constantly questions, never accepts blindly what others say he “should” do, but considers carefully the impact that suggested actions might have, and adjusts his actions accordingly. He questions himself, as well, but remains confident in his actions through his truthfulness to himself. That questioning truthfulness to himself would seem to be the basis for his integrity.

Unconscious choice would be leaving ones choice to others or by failing to make a choice consciously, unconsciously choosing to let the prevailing winds to be in charge. Not voting has its consequences, for instance.
Yes, but not voting is a conscious choice, not an unconscious choice. This may be merely semantics to some people, but to me, words have meanings for a reason. Unconsciousness does not allow for choice.
“Remember those big Moonie weddings? How about the kind of life that the consumer culture intends to impose on us?”

My personal values come in great part from Fritz Perls, my intellectual values from Alfred Korzybski, and my views on consumerism come from Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping.

We’ll have to disagree on that one Rick. Lots of people make no choices at all and I think that is a measure of unconsciousness similar to the legal concept of intentional negligence versus unintentional negligence. Unconciousness is when you know you ought to make a choice but you don’t. That is a choice. Not a good one, but the inevitable result follow in its wake.

If someone drinks and drives, and they know that it is a dangerous thing to do that could cause harm to themselves or another, but they do it anyway, if someone is hurt they have the level of intent that could make the results of an accident a felony on the basis of that intent to take the risk. They didn’t decide consciously to go out and drive a car and cause someone harm, but they did consciously drive while drinking. The results, the harm, are the same.

The First and Last Freedom
by J. Krishnamurti, published by Harper San Francisco
“There is hope in men,
not in society, not in systems,
not in organized religious systems,
but in you and in me.”
“To understand the misery and confusion that exist within ourselves, and so in the world, we must first find clarity within ourselves, and that clarity comes about through right thinking.
This clarity is not to be organized, for it cannot be exchanged with another. Organized group thought is merely repetitive. Clarity is not the result of verbal assertion, but of intense self-awareness and right thinking. Right thinking is not the outcome of or mere cultivation of the intellect, nor is it conformity to pattern, however worthy and noble. Right thinking comes with self-knowledge. Without understanding yourself, you have no basis for thought;
without self-knowledge, what you think is not true.”
“Our system of upbringing is based on what to think not on how to think.”
“True liberation is an inner freedom of creative Reality.
This is not a gift ; it is to be discovered and experienced.
It is not an acquisition to be gathered to yourself to glorify yourself.
It is a state of being, as silence, in which there is no becoming, in which there is completeness.
This creativeness may not necessarily seek expression.
You need not be a great artist of have an audience; if you seek these, you will miss the inward Reality.
Thanks Bart. I know that Krisnamurti was clearer about this than I have been here, but here I am struggling along, seeking to express this with some clarity.
You’re doing great!

I’m not quite sure what you/we are disagreeing on. If you are saying that an unintended result from a conscious choice or decision is an unconscious choice, so be it. But my point, here, is that what you are doing is redefining the words, giving them non-standard definitions, so my initial purpose was to determine whether we are using standard dictionary definitions, or whether the person who wrote this was implying something different, but did not specify what.

What you have defined is not the meaning of the words being used. Unintended results are not unconscious choices, they are what they are; unintended results. But if you wish to define them as “unconscious choices”, I’m okay with that as long as I know that is what we’re doing.

Integrity — wow, what a big question, and how inadequate any response of mine must be. But a few points that I find helpful —

1) when I look in the mirror, who do I see? Am I ashamed by the person who looks back at me?

2) when others see me, what do they see?

3) to what extent do I look for ways to help others?

4) to what extent am I willing to sacrifice my own happiness for the benefit of others? Will I be sad so that others can be happy?

5) to what extent do I put myself at risk for the sake of what’s right?

6) to what extent does self-interest govern my words and actions?

7) how much am I able to put myself in someone else’s shoes?

8) am I willing to “swim against the tide,” perhaps even to be ridiculed, for the sake of what’s right?

9) am I open to criticism, and willing to learn from criticism, and willing to be disappointed in myself?

10) do I treat all people equally? Do I favor the rich over the poor, the intelligent over the slow, the successful over the unsuccessful?

In other words, I think integrity is ultimately about love of others, love of the truth, and honesty about oneself and one’s failings. And sometimes — probably most of the time — the truth hurts. And it should hurt.

I just recently read the Bhagavad Gita and there are passages that give me solace and direction to lead a better life. One that comes to mind is in Chapter 2 under The Characteristics of the Perfect Sage verse 56, “He whose mind in untroubled in the midst of sorrows and is free from eager desire amid pleasures, he from whom passion, fear and rage have passed away-he is called a sage of settled intelligence. Or verse 64, same Chapter, “But a man of disciplined mind, who moves among the objects of sense, with the senses under control and free from attachment and aversion-he attains purity of spirit.” The Bhagavad Gita has many beautiful teaching passages such at these.
Rick, I am just saying when we don’t choose, in a sense we are choosing to let whatever will happen to go ahead and happen. Similar to a default position that automatically arises out of the failure to choose and that is also a kind of choice. Itr’s what happens when people say “Whatever.”
I find that sorrow thing a bit difficult. So far I have only been able to get to right action in the face of sorrow and tears. Also, I note, I have never fallen apart from “falling apart” if you get my meaning Bart.

If you read the Bhagavad Gita then I am thinking you would also enjoy The Crest Jewel of Discrimination by Shankara.

Thanks Susanne, I will look it up.

One question I had was how to define integrity and found a good discussion of it here.

Very thoughtful. Thanks. The article there really gets into it.
Susanne, here is one more link that discusses virtue and how the ancients viewed education and the pursuit of “human flourishing.”
This was a transcript of a speech made by one of my favorite professors at university. He had studied the Classics at Oxford. Hope you like it or it puts you soundly to sleep.

C:\Documents and Settings\khzz236\My Documents\Articles of Interest\Queens University of Charlotte – Dr_ Charles Reed Published in iVital Speeches-i.htm

Sorry, he studied Classical History and Greek at Oxford.
Thanks Susanne, that was fun and thought provoking. I might even have learned something although it takes me longer every year. Talking about virtue, religion and philosophy makes me think of the movie, “A Fish Called Wanda.” In it there is a dialogue between Ken and Wanda that makes me laugh at myself when discussing some of these topics.

Wanda: To call you stupid would be an insult to stupid people. I’ve known sheep who could outwit you. I’ve worn dresses with higher IQs, but you think you’re an intellectual, don’t you, ape?
Otto: Apes don’t read philosophy.
Wanda: Yes they do, Otto, they just don’t understand it.


Okay, we’re on the same page…

Lovely response, particularly the conclusion:

“In other words, I think integrity is ultimately about love of others, love of the truth, and honesty about oneself and one’s failings. And sometimes — probably most of the time — the truth hurts. And it should hurt. ”

How much we unnecessarily hurt ourselves by trying to avoid the pain of being alive. After a few of my relatives had died, and particularly my grandfather, I realized that I didn’t mind a few tears when I was remembering him. It was as if the shadow of the deep love I had for him was travelling through me so that I would remember and perhaps long for who he was to me. We don’t break from pain, but perhaps from resisting it. I like knowing I loved people that much. Thanks Mishima, very thoughtful post with wonderful questons.

umbrellakinesis sez;”You mention not making a choice, and therefore living by default…”

General Semantics, created by Alfred Korzybski , refers to the study of what Korzybski called “semantic reactions”, or reactions of the whole human organism in its environment to some event. Korzybski called this reaction the most useful for human survival, i.e. delayed reactions as opposed to “signal reactions” (immediate, unthinking ones).

e.g. Obama = semantic reactions, Palin = signal reactions.

I like your post, Susanne. My trouble (and I admit I have to re-read your post later as I’m on my lunch break and rushed a bit) is that I find myself too aware. I can sit on that park bench or on that mountain for hours soaking in the world, watching the people, leaves, birds go by. But it hurts me. It’s like I feel the pain of the person walking past me and absorb it. I see a small rabbit and somehow know its mother is gone and I pray for it to avoid the coyotes and owls and the other predators. Damn, I hurt for the world. I know this sounds melodramatic but it’s true. You can ask my husband who watches me cry all the time (and yes, I take my meds).

So I guess sometimes I wish i was less aware and could harden myself a bit. But then who would watch out for the baby rabbits.

Dr Susanne, Thank you very much for this thoughtful post. It comes at a time in my life where I am learning to recognize and honor the gift of my unique voice as vehicle and vessel, and it requires courage, faith, serenity, many things, and above all awareness. Opening myself to what is out, what is in, and the alchemy of the marriage. It is a wonderful path, an alive one. And because I am not a seasoned traveler on it I look for and rejoice in inspiration, guidance and companions.
“…you name it, it’s there in abundant quantities, more than any one of us will never need. But we have to see it, to acknowledge it’s there, to let it become a part of us by making ourselves a part of it.” the last line here is particularly powerful for me.
I’m bookmarking this and returning to appreciate the stimulating comments others left here, especially those who had questions or misunderstandings – for your replies.

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