“We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives." -Fight Club
"Anything worth living for," said Nately, "is worth dying for."
"And anything worth dying for," answered the sacrilegious old man, "is certainly worth living for." -Catch 22
In 399 B.C. a jury consisting of hundreds of Athenians found Socrates guilty of religious impiety and corruption of the youth. His sentence was death by consumption of poisonous hemlock. The famous Greek philosopher was presented with multiple opportunities to seek exile, yet he denied every one of them with the same conviction. He vowed firmly to die for what he believed in. He was committed to truth, logic, and freedom of thought. These are the things that he held as sacred.
We live in a time of round edges and ample safety nets. Gone are the classical dangerous pursuits like exploration and war. In the Western world famine and exposure are no longer threats. Our biggest crisis seems to be, "What should we do with our time today?" Meeting the basic necessities used to provide this direction, but as those have become more easily attained, we are being called to different pursuits. The majority of these fall far short of being considered important. Our attention is under attack from multiple outlets, none of which will answer life's deepest questions.
What is sacred? What are we prepared to die for? What are we here to live for?
These are intense questions to answer day in and day out, but they are the most important questions to answer (or at least endeavor to answer). Our time on Earth is finite. The average lifespan of 4,000 weeks will blow by if we aren't paying attention. By defining what is so important to us that we would rather die than live without it, we establish a true north. Even better is when our own direction and a higher calling are one and the same.
What is the Highest Good that we should be striving for? Socrates thought that the only thing that we can ever truly know is that we know nothing at all. This is the mindset that he believed all philosophy (and meaningful life) began from and is an excellent place for us to start as well. Alignment with the Highest Good, the Sacred, looks something like faith in a benevolent God and admitting our own shortcomings. This is surrender. But alignment also demands a commitment to upholding universal virtues - wisdom, moderation, bravery, justice, and piety. This is action.
When we live ethically, the rest of our lives harmonize. Hypocrisy can not coexist with honesty. Tension cannot coexist with intention. We cannot adequately surrender to goodness unless we have taken the appropriate actions to set things in order. The Sacred is a universal drumbeat that ties together the disparate pieces of our lives and identity. Will you heed its call?