By Jim Powers
I carry in my pocket a medallion with a skull and the words Memento Mori engraved on it. The words are a Latin phrase that translates to “Remember you must die.” I carry it to remind myself that the reality of being human should determine what I do and say and think. Following that creed isn’t easy for any of us because, in fact, we are only human. After we are dead, nothing survives us except the good or bad we did in the world.
The biggest obstacle to living in a way that will benefit not only ourselves, but other human beings is that we are at crossed purposes in our minds.
The Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud developed a psychoanalytic theory that the human psyche was divided into three parts, the Id (our instincts), the Ego (the part of us that deals with reality) and the Superego (our moral aspirations). You’ve probably seen this illustrated in cartoons as a person with the devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other, constantly urging the person caught in the middle to do good or bad things.
Most of us by the time we get into early adulthood encounter that voice in our heads that is filled with negativity. Regardless of the good we want to accomplish in our lives, that voice keeps telling us we are not good enough, we will fail, people will laugh at us and call us losers if we try to achieve our goals. That voice will always be there because it is our own. Everyone has it.
Most people, as they get older, and kicked around by life a little, learn to not listen to that voice. It has nothing good to offer. It is filled with negativity, with anger, with envy. Other people, unfortunately, decide to embrace it, to turn over their lives to it, and pay the price in missed opportunities and broken relationships. Far more dangerous for the rest of us are those who try to find validation for their embrace of that voice by projecting it into the world.
Because we can only infer what other people think and believe, it is easy to believe that those who think, believe and act differently than we do are simply obstinately wrong, and it our responsibility to set them straight, even if we must do it by force of will, or law or government. So, we seek out others who have also embraced the darkest side of themselves for validation and feel justified to do whatever is necessary to force our darkness on those not part of our clique.
There exist very smart (and foolish), powerful, influential people who have embraced the darkness that lives in all of us, and they are using their power and influence to draw millions to themselves, and to impose their will on others. And they will have their reward. Their success plays out daily in our politics and in our social institutions.
We are at an inflection point in history. We have a choice. We can embrace our better angels and work toward human progress, or we can yield to those who have decided to bring humanity down to their depravity. We can embrace love for humanity or hate. But love will never arise from hate.
“So let's leave it alone, 'cause we can't see eye to eye
There ain't no good guy, there ain't no bad guy
There's only you and me and we just disagree” (Dave Mason)
Jim Powers writes opinion columns. His views do not necessarily reflect the views of this publication.