Why Are We Here? (Part 1)

Why Are We Here? (Part 1)

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.”

~ Matthew 25:21 (ESV)

Greetings my fellow Americans!

Many, including myself, have written quite a bit over the years about the founding principles of our great republic, and the personal and societal benefits thereof. People across the political spectrum have bandied about the notions of individual rights and freedom, originating from various and sundry motivations ranging from deep patriotism to the ultimate destruction of our nation. While I believe most of us intrinsically have at least a common working knowledge of the general upsides of individual freedom and liberty, we appear to greatly differ on to which “rights” we are entitled as singular humans in a civilized society, from whom those rights are given, and the degree of personal responsibility one has, or should have, to ensure those rights are maintained. That our interpretations of, and motivations for, the latter seemingly diverge so greatly, and why, is to be my focus in the remainder of this series.

Of the notion that we all, deep down, are selfish—that we all want to do what we want to do, when we want to do it—there can be little doubt. From our earliest moments of life outside the womb, it becomes obvious to most everyone around us that our self-preservation, and needs therefor, are the only things that initially matter to us—subconsciously. Our awareness of the existence of other people is primitive, at best, and only to the extent that these others can care for our immediate needs, especially food. We’ve all started life this way—no exceptions.

Understanding what it means to inhabit this world with others, that those others are older, the same age, and younger than us, and that this cycle began long ago and appears to have no imminent end, is something we learn as our own sensory and cognitive abilities develop and those around us whose similar perceptions have deepened beyond ours repeatedly share their interpretations; it becomes the role, and, for some, the responsibility, of those who have matured beyond infancy to help the child discern that the rest of the world does not exist solely for his gratification and service, while still prioritizing his basic needs while this maturation and learning process advances.

As with all education (throughout one’s life), mistakes often resulting in uncomfortable consequences are made (by all involved) so that admonishment and self-correction may be administered to avoid future discomfort. Insofar as we are inherently the centers of our whole world at birth, most of those early missteps (and many of our latter ones) are rooted in action, or inaction, of a selfish nature, the reprimands, punishments and any subsequent pursuits of self-discipline or -denial driven by the recognition of how one’s prior behavior adversely affected himself and/or others.

As we mature into adulthood (or not), we increase our realization and acceptance that we are not only not alone in this world, but also that our needs, wants, wishes and desires often must be weighed against, and balanced with, those of the others here with us; in other words, our selfishness must be tempered with compassion and altruism toward those for whom we personally care (and even those we often don’t) so that those selfish needs, wants, wishes and desires may at least be partially be met through compromise and/or short-term selflessness for the sake of longer term satisfaction.

Since, as fallen humans, the degree to which any one of us comes to such realization and acceptance may vary greatly, and for a panoply of reasons rooted in situations and choices encountered throughout each of our lives, we almost invariably fall into societal organizations in which some of us in each become arbiters of whose needs, wants, wishes and desires among the whole take precedence at any given time. Those arbiters, at least in the United States and much of the contemporary western world, have relied on the notion of individual “rights” to pass such judgment for the sake of continued order and civility; their power and influence to do so has also steadily increased as the general ability of each individual among the masses to realize and accept that his selfish desires cannot always be treated as the most important by the others, and to willingly accede to those outside of him without intervention.

And, so, we in the United States of America, as a civilized society rooted in the notions of individual liberty and freedom of choice, established a foundation of such “rights” which were to be considered fundamentally granted to all without question, and to have originated from someone outside of, and greater than, ourselves:

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

But why these, and what do these actually mean in the context of our purpose for being here at all

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