BASIC PREMISE OF
We are aiming for a life of goodness – well-being within ourselves (eudaimonia in Greek) and well-being with others. Our visions for a life of goodness must be specific in each area of our lives – our inner lives, our interpersonal lives, our lives with others, our work lives, our creative lives, our spiritual lives, etc. To live optimally in any area of our life, we must be able to regulate our thoughts, feelings, emotions, speech and behavior so they can align with our vision.
Our vision, to the degree that they refer to values, translates to duties. We have duties toward our own well-being and the well-being of others. In spiritual terms, we also have duties toward our souls. In religious terms, we have duties toward God. At one level, the only thing that matters is duty. Duties can conflict; wisdom is required to set our hierarchy of values and duties.
One aspect of our duty to our own well-being is to pursue authentic happiness (well-being rooted mostly in the world of value, less in the world of gratification). The further reach of happiness is “bliss.” When we cannot find authentic happiness or bliss, we must be resilient in performing our duties. One way we can strengthen resilience is to know that everything we do matters, everything we do makes a difference.
We also are aiming specifically to fulfill our moral duties to others. Morality is essentially concerned with not causing intentional, negligent, avoidable and unnecessary harm. In normal lives, this mostly includes emotional harm done with words, gestures and behaviors. Morality also requires us to benefit others, when possible, except for people who are doing harm, as defined earlier.
We have inner destructive patterns - resistance to what is good, right, true and beneficial. This inner resistance has the effect of diminishing our well-being in both arenas, well-being within and well-being with others. This resistance, in general, affects our thinking, feelings, emotions, speech and behavior, as well our physical well-being. In Jewish spiritual psychology, this resistance is called the “Yetzer Ha-Ra” – Destructive Shape or Pattern (sometimes translated as the “Evil Urge” – a misguided translation in my mind).
The key to moral and spiritual well-being is the will, a decision to conduct our inner and interpersonal lives in accordance with our vision. Once we make a decision to do anything important that does not come easy to us, our Resistance will decide to make us not live up to our decision.
Summary: we live in a moral and spiritual framework. Within that framework we are seeking meaning and purpose in our lives. Put more precisely: we live so that meaning and purpose can find us.