The human soul, according to Plato, strives for 3 things: wisdom, conquest and gratification. A righteous life, he advises, is governed by reason and all three elements help one achieve a good and moral life. Using the metaphor of humans living, chained, in a dim cave and facing a blank wall with fire at our back, Plato suggests that seeing the true light of reality means turning away from the wall and its shadows and escaping the cave.
“Anyone who has common sense will remember that the bewilderments of the eyes are of two kinds, and arise from two causes, either from coming out of the light or from going into the light,” Plato commented.
Even today, in the twenty-first century we can still say that reason—and going into the light of the true reality that Plato believed reason conferred—offers a solid foundation for choosing wisely and creating a good and moral life. The center of such a quest holds three elements whose deliberate effects deepen our authenticity: Purpose, contemplation and value construction offer a roadmap to escape the dim cave and come into the light of wise choices.
1. Purpose: The true essence of living well means making difficult choices and surviving challenging, disturbing and uncomfortable moments. Nietzsche said, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” During those times of uncertainty, shrouding ourselves in the blanket of “why we commit to endure” provides comfort, sustenance and a future vision that helps us to persevere.
2. Contemplation: The effort of living through daily life often precludes self-awareness. Packed schedules and overwhelming obligations have us on a treadmill of “doing” that doesn’t leave much time for “being,” an action that allows us to turn and reflect inwards. The ultimate value in life comes from choosing wisely & acting from our most authentic selves rather than just simply surviving.
3. Value: The most personal decisions any of us make are our choices about what we value. In fact, in his book, The Values Factor, world renowned human behavior specialist, John DeMartini, makes the bold assertion: “… determining your highest values is one of the most important actions you could ever take. Determining your values is the key to living your inspired destiny.” DiMartini suggests that understanding our values and using them to achieve our most meaningful goals is the guide to transforming “a quiet life of desperation into an amazing life of inspiration.”
There are many points in a lifetime that offer important self-reflection moments. If we engage in the moment, each of these instances will provide change. Understanding the concept of how to live a good and moral life by making wise and authentic choices means transcending what we experience through the senses to reach the realm of ideas. That place, flooded with the nutrients of purpose, contemplation and values, plants the seeds of actions that can transform us from living life on the surface to diving down deep into what the poet, Phillip Larkin called, “the million-petalled flower of being here.”