Meditations on Dignity & Autonomy
Dignitati meae est non-mercabalis, translated roughly from Latin means "My dignity is not negotiable."
Dignity is a rare coin in short supply today. As it were, dignity is a non-negotiable currency--you cannot sell it but it can be given away. To the hero, dignity it is priceless. To the coward, who has none, it is a trifle. The coward then is not just morally bankrupt, but has nothing to offer the world--he has no currency.
A person who has given away their dignity is truly impoverished.
We earn the currency of dignity by how we treat others. More powerfully than we might want to admit, or that we can perhaps imagine, and contrary to a great deal of new age fluff, we are not the sum total of our “beliefs,” or of certain enlightened attitudes, and certainly not our thoughts. We will be judged continuously by the yardstick of what we do, and less by what we say--though words will not be forgotten.
We live in a befuddled world, yet most of us are remain terminally optimistic. When we loosen our ties to the delusion of material happiness—we thrive. The necessity of human agency--to act-- is often hard to accept. We must work, especially when life is hard. Ironically, many of us are in despair--we hurt while everything around us conspires to make life “easier.” If we cannot accept the mantle of self-determination, then we cannot accept “action” as a solution—and logically if we cannot accept another person's actions, then we cannot take them into our lives. We should avoid individuals and actions that cause a decrease in our very natural dignity. We should seek empowerment, not dissipation. We should not give ourselves away to material or falsity.
The greatest betrayal in the world occurs when we abandon ourselves and our values to acquiesce another person--when we give away or dignity.
Eventually, having long since forgotten the ancient route and agreement that brought us to this life--we come to find ourselves at a doorway above which reads the words "betrayer and betrayed." It is a door with which we are all familiar and which we will have encountered many times. Seen correctly-the portal that opens is that of non-dual awareness.
When we pass through the door, we discover that we are responsible for what has wounded us. Alas, the twin who meets us on the other side of the door confounds us! Like Odysseus, passing through Sylla and Charybdis, we realize in an instant that we are keepers of chaos and inchoate fear. When we pass through the fates, we find it is fear itself that restores us to dignity and profoundly uplifts the kind soul. We become the eternal heroic; we take back our dignity. We conclude that there is no "other" one. It is we who step through the portal. If, and only if, we have prepared the heart, we can bolster ourselves with the deep inner wisdom, or gut, in layman's terms--we forge ahead into a choice-less, pathless land called "Truth."
What a gift this betrayal is. To whom do we attribute this sharp wound? None other than ourselves. Betrayal, separation, and dualism come to us before birth. The ancients believe that as form, we are in tacit betrayal. As physical beings we have vacated heaven, we eschew the void for form. We leave the pure mind for raw material, we imbibe chaos for an ordered existence.
Betrayal is our Mother. Indeed the gnostic mythology depicts Aeon Sophia herself, the Mother, as having incarnated in defiance of the Father, to create the conditional plane of existence we know as earth. We are born of that ancient betrayal.
Our lives comprise continual recapitulations of this birth. We journey from childish naivety to the cult of the jaded adult. Some of us travel from the dissipated, unfettered non-self of addiction and find ourselves consigned to a false self and privileged ego. Further still, we push further into a perplexed ego and find sad detachment. Then, finally, hopefully, we pick ourselves up from detachment from complete disassociation and eventually emerge from unconsciousness to consciousness. Even if only at the time of death, we will come to the door. Each phase is alchemical--each challenge unique. Take care, because the significance of our journey is lost in the traffic of life, in the vague transaction.
Pay attention to what presents itself; it is by design from whom, and in whom we encounter depth or lack thereof. To learn to accept the myriad forms of learning--betrayal, deceit, arrogance is wisdom. These are as important as recognizing the value of all the virtues. The path of the heroic is one of broad acceptance of the road of self-individuation, of understanding what is betrayed and what can be restored.
Four Spheres of Personal Autonomy
There are four primary areas of personal autonomy where we access our agency, our power to regain our dignity. By understanding, even cultivating a uniquely masculine or dynamic sense of these areas, men can work with the magnetic to embody solutions, and not just give them lip service. Understanding these four spheres of relationship is not only the key to developing a new masculine ethos but calibrating it for our friends and children. We must start somewhere, so we start with our views of the four spheres we interact with every day.
I have listed each field of interrelation with a corresponding “credo” that reinforces the notion of individuality and autonomy.
Most of us have hard and fast rules about how we wish for our physical body to be accessed, touched and treated. If we extend this knowledge as an axiom of truth, we can assert that everyone possesses the fundamental right to control their body, and for that body to be nourished and sustained. In even simpler terms, everyone has the right to exist.
I have a right to my body, to make the choices about what I wish to do with my body and how I grant access to it. I am responsible for how my actions (my body) affects others. No one has the right to violate or infringe on my physical being or my liberty, and I am not allowed to infringe on another person's.
We have the same prerogative and right to think what we wish and to control our thoughts; the brain is in the body after all. Most importantly we want to retain our individuality-our right to free speech and freedom of thought. People in the workplace should feel inspired to creative thought, not stifled by “joiners”. When I was a strategist, I would look for the guy or gal who did not agree with me to get an entirely different point of view. Don’t stifle alternative or contrarian viewpoints to appear unified.
I have a right to my thoughts, to my opinions and judgments. I have a right to make choices about what I wish to think about, and I am responsible for how these thoughts affect others. No one has the right to violate or infringe on my freedom of thought.
First, it is important to realize that thoughts and feelings are different. We have accustomed a very wide range of ideas, but often we forget that emotions emanate from the physical body, not the mind. Our nervous systems are a complex array of connections to the gut, the lumbar area of the spine and the brain.
I have a right to my feelings. I have the right to encounter and acknowledge not just what I am thinking, but what I am feeling no matter what it is. I am responsible for how my emotions affect others. No one has the right to violate or infringe on my emotional autonomy, and I am not allowed to interfere with anyone else's.
Transcendent or Mythopoeic
The last category is enormously important. Perhaps the most important because it contains the notion that we have a right and responsibility to own not only our bodies and what is within us our thoughts and emotions but to own the cultural and archetypal places we come from and our personal understanding of what the bigger picture means to us. By encountering those in the workplace whose worldview differs from our own, we become a more intrinsically accepting workplace.
I have a right to access that which transcends me. I have a right to my unique and personally understanding of the cosmos. I have a right to my own personal, archetypal and cultural mythology. I am here to make full meaning of my world and myself. I take responsibility for how I create, interact and share in the mythopoeic with others.
*The Oxford Dictionary defines ethos as originally meaning “accustomed place” (for instance: ἤθεα ἵππων “the habitat of horses,” Iliad 6.511), but also as: “custom or habit,” equivalent to Latin mores. In other words-ethos pertains directly to the character of a place and how people behave there.