I want to take a deeper look in the mirror this morning.
Being as it has been a bit longer than I planned since my last post, I wanted to bring a little more “to the fight” this time to show I utilized my additional prep-time accordingly. In a recent binge of reading I have been doing, mostly on Marketing and Leadership, I have decided to mix things up with a bit of philosophy. My choice of poison was Michel Foucault’s, The Use of Pleasure, Volume 2: The History of Sexuality. In reading, I couldn’t help but make a comparison of the aggregate, third and fourth century lifestyles in Greek Theology, Christianity and Paganism to that of modern day or “today’s” societies. Something stuck out to me… Of all the issues that required moral guidance, all three religious structures were formed around a central theme: moral code, religious guidance and general rule would ensure the individual was aware that his or her actions would be judged and moral or immoral based on the impact or duty paid to the city, or society. Today, it seems the modernized world has reversed that ideology. Today, it seems the majority of individuals are more concerned with what society can do for the individual.
Where is MY tax check? What about MY unemployment? What are THEY doing for ME? I don’t owe THEM anything! THEY cut off OUR funding. It’s not MY responsibility. I can go on, and I have muttered many of the same phrases. I feel like we, as a society, truly have shifted our focus to what we as individuals can get from society, and have turned off or greatly reduced our concern for our own impact and input to society. But is there a chance that if we looked a bit more outward, that focusing on our society before ourselves could create a better lives for ourselves AND those around us in the process? In Sarano Kelley’s book, The Game: Win Your Life in 90 Days, there is an entire chapter referring to charity. But more importantly, Kelley often refers to the mindset of being focused on how we can help others, and argues an outward focus away from one’s individual needs often returns greater yield for the individual in the long run. I’d have to say I agree. Doing something that brings me personal satisfaction may make me happy until that stimulant is removed. But I can find true and lasting joy knowing I’ve done something to enable someone else to find their own happiness.
I’d like to place a small section from “The Use of Pleasure” that I found impactful to me, where Foucault recalls Plato’s explanation of “the craftsman”:
“…On the other hand, the man who ought to lead others was one who had to be completely in command of himself: both because, given his position and the power he wielded, it would be easy for him to satisfy all his desires, and hence to give way to them, but also because disorderly behavior on his part would have its effects on everyone and in the collective life of the city. In order not to be excessive, not to do violence, in order to avoid the trap of tyrannical authority (over others) coupled with a soul tyrannized by desires, the exercise of political power required, as its own principle of internal regulation, power of oneself…that is, [moderation] was a virtue that qualified a man to exercise his mastery over others. The most kingly man was a king of himself.”(Foucault 1985, 80-81).
I believe the passage speaks for itself. I would like to point out that as many military leaders have been taught, or rather referenced to: With great power comes great responsibility. All of us are in positions of power in different ways – some more than others. I am not saying we all should venture into debt, or create debt in random acts of charity as denoted by financial “charity”. Rather, I believe most of us stand to gain a greater collection of people we interact with and a more joy-filled life if we just keep a greater awareness of our impact on others – on society. Just a greater awareness of our impact on others will adjust simple actions that add to the better of the whole.