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The Return to Earth: From Self-Actualization to Soul

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“The concept of the face, I argue, belongs with those of freedom and responsibility as part of the interpersonal understanding of the world. That is to say, in seeing an array of features as a face, I do not understand it biologically, as the invisible film that encases another brain and lets in, through eyes and ears, the information that the brain is processing. I understand it as the real presence, in our shared world, of you.”  – Roger Scruton, The Soul of the World

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I was talking with a friend from another country recently.  According to him, things in his home country are heading in much the same direction as they are here.  There’s a renewed focus on community, faith, camaraderie, and a growing rejection of the idea of a borderless and anonymous consumer paradise labeled utopia.  

In the last decades, possibly even the last few centuries, things in Europe and America have been focused on what we might call “self-actualization” to use the sociologist Abraham Maslow’s phrase.  This means there has been a strong drive towards individualism. I’ve written about that many times here, and in many ways.  There have been good and bad things about that process.   On the whole I tend to think modernity has turned in on itself right now and need to be either fixed or opted out of in many ways.  The evidence of depression, drug addiction, anxiety, suicide, etc. speaks for itself. 

Another way of seeing what’s happening now is that it’s like a correction in the stock market.  Individualism or “self-actualization” was oversold and now there’s a correction going on.  People are returning to earth, so to speak and dumping there “stock” in a life of abstract and amorphous “self-actualization.” 

There is movement away from self-actualization, lived as individualism, and a movement towards the life of the soul.  

Self-actualization sees no necessary limits, duties, or fidelities, and is focused on what each individual wants, and has often played out primarily as a never-ending quest of materialism, based on high amounts of debt and stress.  In contrast, the life of the soul is the life of rootedness, community, and eternal spiritual values.  The life of the soul is based on love- love of friends, family, community, truth, God, a way of life, a home.  

On a deeper level, the life of the soul says we’re subjects, real people with free will,  not just objects of material gunk with no free will.  

And as we’ve already discovered in many other posts, individualism is impossible without community. 

It’s a very exciting time, despite all the craziness in the news.  New forms of camaraderie and community are developing, green shoots of faith are popping up, and small but significant numbers of people are opting out of the frantic drive for a purely material life.  This is a good thing for anyone who cares about the life of the soul.  

There is less of a divide between left and right, conservative and liberal, (though they want us at each other’s throats) as there is a real divide between the life of the soul and the life of avoiding it or sleep-walking.  This makes for all kinds of new possibilities and opportunities for those with their eyes open.  

Speaking of the life of the soul, now is a great time to get outside with a friend and go hiking.  This world God made is amazing. 

I took this picture a few weeks ago after a day hiking the Appalachian Trail in North Georgia.  We got lucky because it doesn’t snow often in Georgia.  But when it does it’s good for the soul. 

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