A satisfied life requires a few basic elements — love that is undefinable, work that compels, time for whatever expands us, and music, always music. We could crawl around on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need and toss in shelter, security, and self-esteem, but let’s not go crazy here.
Another core element to a satisfied life is one that often gets overlooked: one or more guiding principles. Guiding principles are often seen as a requirement for living a good life or a moral life (whatever that is). The satisfied life, however, is more readily connected with items that fill or nurture us — love, work, time, music — rather than that which directs us.
Guiding principles are the border collies of the spiritual journey. They nip at our heels when we wander too far into the land of compromise. They outrun us and come up on our blindside every time we try to turn a different direction. They guide us into the safety of the barn every night . . . if we let them.
In this age of labels, we can become deluded into believing that the groups with which we identify can provide some of the above services. But the lines aren’t as clear anymore. In his essay Self-Reliance, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “If I know your sect, I can anticipate your argument.” But, I’m not so sure that’s as true as it used to be. Does Christian mean what it used to? Does Democrat? Single? Southern? Race?
Being a Democrat or a Republican might not guide me to do what is right and good and true, but a principle will. One of my principles, for instance, is an abiding belief in the equality and unity of all people. Because of that, I stand against racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia, xenophobia, religious intolerance, etc. I don’t have to make a decision on each of those. I don’t have to consult a party platform or a church tenet. I simply have to establish my principle and every decision after that flows with ease.
In an era of fake news and fallacious rhetoric, we need personal principles more than ever. I mean, what if, just what if, we decided that one of our guiding principles was the idea that loving one another was more important than politics? What if, just what if, we decided that our shared humanity was higher up the priority list than our religious differences? And what if, just what . . . if . . . , we decided that honoring and respecting each other was more important than winning a damn election?
That just might be . . . satisfying.