“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.
I 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.