I posit that humans are significantly less conscious and autonomous than we like to pretend. Although we possess the potential to transcend our base animal fears and desires, few of us ever reach a meaningful level of attaining our potential. We consume motivational literature and media as we affirm the urge to direct our own lives. Yet we idolize the motivators and believe it is wise to emulate or copy them despite our individual, unique backstories.

Certainly there are a few nearly universal ideals we can choose as guideposts in the urge to direct our lives. We can listen to our “inner voice” and cultivate mastery of skills we wish to possess. We might discover through trial and error that working towards something bigger than ourselves is a major ingredient in our lives. These are some factors that require careful consideration when we consciously strive to be benevolent while retaining autonomy.

What is responsible autonomy? One common example is the basic driver’s license. Most of us have one that we pretty much take for granted. It’s easy to forget that operating a motor vehicle on public roads requires permission; it’s not an inalienable right. To retain that privilege, we are obligated to obey certain rules such as driving carefully within legally enforced parameters. Our driving privileges can be withdrawn if we drive irresponsibly and endanger other road users. On the other hand, driver’s licenses are catalysts of independence and opportunity. Being able to legally drive motor vehicles expands our abilities to eak out a living, travel pretty much where we wish, and more easily carry out our personal responsibilities. In this sense, driver’s licenses are synonymous with socially responsible autonomy.

One might define adult, responsible autonomy as thinking and doing as we wish, so long as we do not endanger the well-being of others. Adulthood implies being able to earn a living, dwell in an apartment or house, living in partnership with another adult or independently, and coexisting with other people by fulfilling basic societal obligations. We are able to choose whether to do these things out of blind obedience to norms or we can mindfully determine the activities and manner with which we effectively synergize with the world.

Taking my own life as one particular life option, I define foundational autonomy by practically acting as my own “creator”. In the most fundamental sense I am ultimately responsible for my actions and how I react to the words and actions of others. Because I consciously choose to continue to reside in the United States, I understand that living here entails existential social forces and historical, national heritage.

To effectively, satisfactorily live here I take into account the external social culture yet mindfully cultivate and preserve my personal autonomy. Mindfully, peaceably engaging assertively with the world leads to empowerment. The daily task of preserving empowerment within the juggling act of balancing cooperation, collaboration, and independence preserves my autonomy.

In my opinion, each person is not just a unique individual, apart from others. A person is a being who can choose relative autonomy in relation to the natural and social environments with which she/he interacts intimately. All things considered, effective autonomy is not acquired by asserting our independence alone. It occurs when we create mutually beneficial interdependecies with others. The fact is that we are already parts of a fundamentally interdependent world and Universe. We can either vainly struggle against it or we can use interdependence to our great advantage.

It is simplistic to insist that autonomy is rebelling against society. Effective living includes practicing autonomy while simultaneously connecting with the world at large. In fact, autonomy and synergy are mutually dependent. While we are ultimately responsible for our lives, we necessarily need each other for survival and well-being. To thrive and not merely exist, we work towards balancing independence and interdependence. This is the conscious autonomy that helps us to break free.


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes the late actor, essayist, and journalist, David Rakoff. “I had a beautiful childhood and a lovely childhood. I just didn’t like being a child. I didn’t like the rank injustice of not being listened to. I didn’t like the lack of autonomy.”

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in cultural highlights, philosophy and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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