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Can We Be Better Than What We Think?

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“Man is born free but lives in chains-knowing these chains are self- imposed”
–Rousseau

By Richard Cirulli

Existentialism deals with phenomenology, in simple terms the phenomenon of life.

That raises various questions: Does our existence equal our essence of life?

How do we construct our thoughts about the world that surrounds us and how much influence does it have on how we think and act?

Are we capable of thinking for ourselves to build the best person we can be or do we merely follow the herd of humanity – often misguided?

Or do we become our own thinkers to improve ourselves to better adapt to some of life’s absurdities and annoyances?

Do we have the courage to look into our conscience with honesty to overcome our insecurities? That often times leads to anger and jealousy.

There’s an expression, “a vessel that holds acid is damaged more than anything it pours acid upon.” If you are a vessel of anger, envy and complaints, it does more damage to you than that which you pour it on. If you want to maintain or improve your mental health, happiness, well-being and your ability to function as a better person, we should inquire of ourselves if these misguided thoughts with their resultant actions make us a better person. It’s how we think that decides if we choose to be an antagonist or protagonist in our dealings with our fellow humanity.

To make this point, we all have experienced in our life the workings of our frail human condition after receiving professional recognition, personal accomplishments and ultimately attaining Maslow’s self-actualization, the pinnacle of the hierarchy of needs. Please note, this is not simply securing materialistic goals along with adolescent bragging rights; it’s being the best person you can be, free of insecurities that manifest in strong egos, anger, envy and self-centeredness. 

To illustrate this point, I will share a personal experience I had just a few years ago following my book signing reception attended by friends. One of my “friends” approached me to criticize my book (it received very good reviews), and further stated that he and his wife should have been consulted to contribute to the book. The couple had never authored a book or had a published article to their credits, and know little of the subject matter.

I was quite amused and felt equally sorry for this person. I simply responded by telling him, “I’m quite flattered that you spend so much time thinking and talking about me. Instead of spending so much time criticizing my accomplishments, you may consider it better to spend your energies on improving your own lot.”

Well, he looked me in the eye with that deer-in-the-headlights look, never to see him again. I do hope he is busy now improving his own lot.

It would be fair to say that many of us enjoy great conversations with genuine friends where we can discuss ideas, experiences and our hopes to assist us in being better persons and to strive to seek our essence of life. As mentioned above, some people enjoy taking an antagonist view in their conversations, a means to mask their insecurities. The wise know better; verbal attacks filled with criticisms raise the red flag of high insecurities.

We are free to either chain our thoughts or to remove our self-imposed shackles to free us from such acid thoughts that hurt us more than the intended victims. It’s simply a matter of choice and what we decide to think.

Be well. Be safe. Be happy. Be nice! Amor fati!

Dr. Richard Cirulli is a published author, playwright and retired professor. His body of works can be viewed at www.demitasseplayers.com. He looks forward to your comments, and can be reached at profcirulli@optonline.net.

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