Who are We?
What a question! It is posed by the faculty to visitors and enrolled students at the Academy for the Love of Learning, located just south of Santa Fe. But what I discovered is that the faculty also is asking this question of themselves. These folks appear to have a good sense of who they are and what it is that is truly theirs to do.
From a brochure: “As an organization, the Academy is dedicated to cultural transformation. Our work crosses many boundaries and communities, as we seek to respond in pioneering ways to the unprecedented global changes that loom before us. Our learning methodologies help people flourish now, and in the unknown world ahead.”
Have you yet heard of the Academy? I first discovered it in August of 2011 when I picked up a copy of a local newspaper with a picture of the founder, Aaron Stern, on the cover. An open house was being held. I attended, and have participated in at least four evening events since then. It was at one of these evenings, an introduction to one of their major programs, “Leading by Being,” that I first heard “Who are we?”
In addition to this question, there are two others—the actual first question being “Who am I?/Where am I from?” The third question is “What is truly mine to do?” The answers are invited from all who attend.
I am not an enrolled student nor an official spokesperson. I recommend people attend future introductory programs and come to their own conclusions. What follows are some of my personal thoughts regarding the Academy’s questions: “Who am I?” The facilitator during my visit offered three types of ‘I’ or self: the ‘adapted self,’ the ‘free self,’ and ‘no self.’
This would be to me the person who is socially ‘with the program.’ (S)he ‘goes along,’ but just to ‘get along’ in a mindless, rat-race way. The adapted self ideally is well-adjusted because (s)he has a reasonable vested interest in the so-called system. (Oh boy, are there a lot of concepts here from the common parlance, and please remember, these are my impressions.) The ‘adapted,’ it could be said, judge their culture as adequate to their needs.
If the adjusted ‘falls off the horse,’ (s)he may choose to get back up again and keep riding without, hopefully, getting stuck in a rut or morphing into a rat in the rat race.
Non-adapted Types? Anyone?
I, being in psychology, began to wonder about the other side of the coin: the ‘non-adapted.’
- Non-adapted may refer to any of us with personality dysfunctions and character defects ranging from full-blown mental illness and the addictive lifestyle, to mildly troublesome personality disorders, to your garden-variety, everyday rude or selfish person. I am not thinking of the good versus bad axis here, but rather of the Buddhist concept of unskillfulness as ‘non-adapted,’ though come to think of it, immorality may be a form of the ‘non-adapted’ self—depending on who you talk to.
Forms of getting ‘re-adapted,’ if one so chooses or is capable, range from mainstream therapy and recovery work to private study of human potential and consciousness raising, to personal readings and study, or just plain hanging out with a good old buddy who won’t stand for your b.s.
Discovery that one has gone down a road of poor decisions, poor mental/emotional health or what have you, can bring a person to retrace the steps to the crossroads and start down the skillful path approaching again adaptation, awakening, insight and renewed skills for living; or on the minus side, to merely to the illusion of the material satisfactions of the adapted, if that is all one has been missing. (For how one might avoid these illusions, see The Free Self below.)
- Another ‘non-adapted’ self is the non-conforming, counter-cultural, progressive types. My God, here are the artists, creatives, scientists—so who’s judging negatively? The world progresses magnificently because of those who wonder, ponder and question.
- Then there are the revolutionaries, reformers and seers, who stand for the re-definition of adapted, breaking cultural norms, even laws which are eventually seen by the majority to be untrue, for the greater good. But don’t tell that to the establishment.
- At last there are the outlaws, troublesome to themselves and others, rather more ‘maladapted’ than ‘non-adapted’—the extreme form being the sociopathic, who have neither empathy nor remorse.
The Free Self
What about the ‘Free’ self that the Academy introduces? For me this would be one knowing his passion, vision and mission. His free self is more deeply conscious of who he is, in addition to his adapted self. The free self, I’ll venture, keeps the rules, but in addition, he has a sense of a true self–perhaps as highly realized as a yogi. The free self might make personal choices outside the rules—and I believe this would not involve anyone being hurt or rights violated. The free self, in my opinion, is realized enough to see each person as an end, and never as a means.
Nietzsche’s superman comes to mind, but I would not want to meet him in a dark alleyway having hazarded this comparison and somehow got it wrong, or underestimated the superman.
What comes to mind as an example of this self is what I once heard by Yogananda: “I am the Ocean of Spirit that has become a human wave.” Well, there is a lot to be said about this and I would recommend going within and finding your own understanding.
One of my associates put it this way: This ‘no-self’ is a self with the personality and the relationships taken out of it so to speak (but still functioning in the world), and living out of one’s essence or spirit.
Of this ‘no-self,’ I hope to get the Academy’s position in more detail.
Who Are We?
Here, I would say that the “we” is me and mine, me and my colleagues, me and family, me and the check-out clerk at the supermarket. I get that the Academy really shines in this question, and offers some really well thought out paradigms, and I suspect anyone going deeper into this question would be amply rewarded.
What is Truly Mine to Do?
What a great, inspiring way to put it. I have pondered this for some time and two authors have been my guides: Laurie Beth Jones in her The Path. Jones has split the atom of “truly mine to do” by outlining the method of generating a personal vision of the world one chooses to manifest, and the mission of actions by which that world comes into being.
I have also been instructed by Richard Brodie’s “Virus of the Mind,” in which he proposes a simple plan of personal programming and purpose complimenting Jones’s The Path. (SOURCE: Jones, L. B. (2001). The path: Creating your mission statement for work and for life. Hachette Books.)
What is Truly Mine to Do?
- Commit to a vision and mission with “continuous, undiscourageable, unceasing determination . . . Will and act until victory.” (Yogananda)
- Be clear about why I commit — my motives, and potential gratitude.
- Design daily action plans, target dates, assessments and re-assessment of outcomes. And finally,
- By the way, what am I living for anyway? What is my ultimate gift to the world? This fourth step is seeing more deeply into step one.
And there you have it my friends: the energy I got at the Academy for the Love of Learning.