All of what we take out of life, all of what we get out of life, all of what we put into life depends on value systems we adopt, value systems we cherish. If we do not have any value systems, life is not a journey, life is not an adventure, for at the end of life, nothing is learned, nothing is gleaned, nothing is gained.
If it exists, the only thing we take into the afterlife is our knowledge. But how exactly are we to gain knowledge if we admit none at all? Without understanding of addition and subtraction, it is impossible to understand any algebra. If we do not start off admitting some knowledge — knowledge to which we hold ourselves accountable — we are unable to enter the afterlife with knowledge in which we have any confidence.
Were it to exist, all we take into the afterlife is our knowledge. But absent any reference points (value systems), accumulation and refinement of knowledge for arrival at knowledge in which we repose any confidence is impossible.
What then are some of the value systems we could adopt for turning of life into meaningful journeys, for turning of life into worthwhile adventures, into time worth celebrating?
Well, if we celebrate love in relationships, we put love into life, hopefully get love out of life, see love as part of reward of human existence.
If we celebrate dignity of work, jobs are not just opportunities for earning money or making a living, jobs enable us input our ability, passion, expertise, intuition, and time into worthwhile projects. We find each worthwhile project gives birth to yet another, with outcome worthwhile projects become part of reward of human existence. Perhaps yet we separate job from work, find dignity of work and fulfillment of work outside of whatever it is we do for a living.
If we celebrate peaceful coexistence, competition within society revolves around demonstrations of our ability and expertise, not attempts at destroying of others. We sow peaceful coexistence, hopefully reap it in interactions with others, peaceful coexistence becomes one of the rewards of human existence.
If we celebrate spirituality, with spirituality connoting sum total of values and restraints we impose on ourselves, society never devolves into hedonistic pleasure. We sow restraints into our behaviors, reap restraints in behaviors of others, restrained peaceful coexistence becomes one of the rewards of human existence.
If we celebrate hedonism, we assassinate Julius Caesars, plunge an entire empire into bloodshed and strife, bloodshed and strife that produces exactly the outcome the assassination seemingly was intended to prevent — emergence of Emperors. There is not a single dominant world power whose demise cannot be linked, to some degree or fashion, with descent into hedonistic pleasure. If Alexander the Great had not become intoxicated with conquest, not attempted to conquer forests of Asia, he probably would have lived ever much longer.
If we celebrate adherence to sect or denomination based religion, obedience to men who claim to know the truth best, men who attempt to persecute others who live morally upright lives merely because they disagree with current interpretation of truth, religion becomes opium of the masses — opium for all those who refuse to use their minds, opium for all those who willingly subjugate their intellectual faculties to others. Jesus was not Catholic, Baptist, or Methodist. So far as I know, all of Islam considers Mohammed their prophet, meaning their prophet was neither Shiite nor Sunni. So then if a Christian loves his or her neighbors, what does it matter if he or she disagrees on some small point, some small point Jesus Christ Himself considers irrelevant? If we sow denomination or sect based religion, we sow division, strife. If we sow core of spirituality, all sects or denominations become social constructs of some cadre of spirituality. Denominations or sects no longer are walls of barricade, but social orders generated by commonality of understanding in context of some cadre of spirituality. The problem as always in an imperfect world? Money, Power, Control, Sex.
Self actualization implies we transform ourselves into the best versions of ourselves, become the best we ever conceivably could imagine. Self actualization is an internal quality, an internal satisfaction with who we have become, with who we are becoming, internal satisfaction that is fully cognizant of what it was we started out with in the first place.
Does generation of rewards in life by itself equate to self actualization? Well, let’s not argue about this, let’s simply consider the evidence. Rich people commit suicide. Famous people commit suicide. Young teens from rich homes commit suicide. Wives of rich men murder their husbands. Rich men murder their wives. Need I continue? The evidence demonstrates very clearly, rewards never by themselves equate to internal satisfaction with who we are, internal satisfaction with who we see ourselves becoming.
In what follows, I illustrate the dichotomy between rewards and self actualization using teachings of Jesus Christ. If spirituality merely is religion, all that matters is rewards — rewards for good or bad behavior, with loyalty essence of good behavior. If we are not to find any dichotomy between rewards and self actualization, the religious or spiritual sphere is the most likely context within which to commence our search. The illustration is practical, does not require faith in Jesus Christ for deciphering of secular truth embedded in the teaching.
In the Beatitudes of Jesus Christ recorded in Christian Scriptures in Matthew 5: 3–12, other than purity of motives, and love for peacemaking, every good attribute merely generates a reward from God.
In the Beatitudes, if a person was kind to others, they reaped kindness. If they desired to live right, they received capacity for living right. If they were sad that they were struggling to become whatever they desired to be, they received help from God. If they were not pompous, they prospered. If they were persecuted for living right, they became rulers in affairs of earth.
In context of the Beatitudes, people self actualized only if they developed purity of motives and desire for peace because those two attributes earn opportunity to see God , opportunity to become like God (Hebrews 12:14). Given Christians are called to become like God in love (John 13:34–35), in the Beatitudes Jesus declares that in absence of two important qualities — pure motives, and love for peaceful coexistence — it is impossible to become like God in love. In the Beatitudes, Jesus makes clear it is possible to experience lots of good rewards in context of our human existence in context of belief in Him, yet not become self actualized, yet not attain to internal satisfaction.
A person who professes faith in Jesus Christ can earn rewards for good actions and good behavior, yet not self actualize in sense of becoming like Jesus Christ. Loyalty to Jesus then is impossible without desire for self actualization. Jesus we conclude then is not ‘religious’. If we do not desire to self actualize we are unable to please Him.
We can sow the right things in life, reap the right things (rewards) in life, make life about the right things, yet not reap internal satisfaction. Contradiction? Absolutely not. If we do not sow the right things with right motives, we are unable to reap internal satisfaction.
There are loads of evidence for this in history — of people showing remorse for good actions done with bad motives. Subsequent to the First World War, seemingly right things sown were attempts at destroying Germany — allies rightly were angry at having lost so many people in order to win the war. What happened? A Second World War. Allies learnt the lesson. Subsequent to the Second World War, right things sown were attempts at turning enemies (Germans or Japanese) into friends. Both sets of actions could be construed to be right, only one set of actions had intention of turning enemies into friends, as opposed to keeping people down. Attempts at keeping others down never have been known to facilitate peace or friendship.
Without good motives, and desire for peaceful cohabitation, even for a believer in Jesus Christ, self actualization and internal satisfaction remain ever out of reach. History agrees. The Preacher? The non-religious, spiritual Jesus Christ.