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McKenna on The Examined Life

September 9, 2012

Excerpted from Spiritual Warfare, by Jed McKenna:

Socrates makes quite a damning indictment: The unexamined life is not worth living. Who lives a conscious, examined life? Everyone probably thinks they do, but virtually no one actually does. Who decides to spend the hours and days and weeks and months and years of their life as they do? Who, by conscious decision, with informed thought aforethought, decides to pair up and have kids and buy a house and work a job and spend the very coin of their life filling in the lines of a hand-me-down, coloring-book life? Where are the people living examined lives? Lives worth living? Where are the people who made a choice? Not just the secondary choices made within an unchosen framework, but the principal choices, the choice of the framework itself. Where are the people who chose their lives?

Who consciously chooses to wrap themselves in chains? Who chooses marriage and children and career? Who chooses to join the ranks of debt-ridden consumers and spend the fruits of their lifelong labors as a slave to possessions and corporations? Who chooses to spend their free time running errands and doing chores and watching television? Who chooses to eat toxic foods, to live in toxic environments surrounded by toxic people? Who chooses to live a pre-programmed life from birth to death? Who dreams such sordid, vile, life-negative dreams?

Sure, maybe a life of drudgery and carrot-chasing is exactly what we’d choose if we did choose, but we don’t. That’s what it means to be unconscious; to be asleep within the dream. We slip into the lives that are laid out for us the way children slip into the clothes their mother lays out for them in the morning. No one decides. We don’t live our lives by choice, but by default. We play the roles we are born to. We don’t live our lives, we dispose of them. We throw them away because we don’t know any better, and the reason we don’t know any better is because we never asked. We never questioned or doubted, never stood up, never drew a line. We never walked up to our parents or our spiritual advisors or our teachers or any of the other formative presences in our early lives and asked one simple, honest, straightforward question, the one question that must be answered before any other question can be asked:

“What the hell is going on here?”

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