Creating Your Living List of Values

A fulfilling life for an animal is the pursuit of primal desires. Food, shelter, reproduction are enough. A cheeseburger, an apartment without rain dripping through the roof, and the proximity of some non-matching genitals are enough for our animal-selves.

These physical, objectively-measurable objects line the bottom of our hierarchy of needs. We take care of those things first.

There are basics we need to live on this Earth, and the practical foundation of our lowest nature provides structure on which we can build and climb higher. Societies don’t watch Oprah and talk about “feelings” until our bellies are full. The basics, the lowest common denominators of our animal needs, cannot be denied.

The highest parts of us cannot be ignored, either.

Once we fill our bellies with cheeseburgers and shelter our heads with apartments, we often graduate to fancy meals and mansions. We fill lives with bigger lifestyles, and keep stuffing more and more objects into our lifestyle. Objects once filled our animal needs… and we wonder why something within us still feels “empty.”

Our hearts yearn for more. Our souls yearn for more.

Here is the confusion faced by our First World: This fulfilling “more” does not come from bigger/better/faster food, shelter and sex.

No matter how “big” our animal satisfactions become, they do not fulfill us as human beings. If you look up at a city on a hill and see a billion-dollar home and see a helicopter pad on top of it: look at the man inside his golden helicopter.

Can you see what is within his heart and soul?

Surprisingly to those of us without our own helicopter, his life may or may not be full of meaning and joy.

The observable world is not the totality of our reality.

A fulfilling life for a human, is the pursuit of bigger basics AND the creation of more. We seek to become a full and thriving expression of everything that we are. What we are is more than our bodies. We seek this fulfillment through specific ways of emotionally experiencing our relationships with our world

One word for these ways of relating to the totality of reality, would be “values.”

Observable goals are symbols. It is not the trophy that we want. The object itself is only a symbol. It is the way we feel when the trophy is handed to us, that has meaning.

Objective achievements are not what we ultimately seek. A lifestyle may be made up of achievements, but living is experience.

It is not the white stars on a black sky, or a shoulder under our forearm that is meaningful – it is how we felt as we put an arm around her and looked up at the stars.

I invite you to make a list of the emotional “essences of experience” that you value most.

Find the internal, intimate nature of how you want to relate to the world.

Sometimes this is “the forms of change you want to see in the world.” Sometimes it is what you’ve been afraid other people couldn’t accept.

Find the marrow of moments. Identify the genre of an episode in the show; figure out what you want to feel as you watch your life unfold. What is the personality of your own participation in this thing? What are the flavors you want to taste more of in life?

You are choosing what your moments are filled with, whether you notice your choices or not.

You’ve got maybe 41,000,000 minutes to fill with meaning. A list of values you want to create may come in handy. You’ll know what you truly want, which is to fill those minutes with feeling. You can infuse more of them with feeling alive.


A Communication Pledge

I say what I mean.
I choose to let others accept me or reject me based on who I am.
The responsibility to share my heart and mind and soul lies with me. I will express myself to the limit of my abilities.

What I say may not be common.

I know it is easier to understand an expected word. I know misunderstanding is common, and happens to all of us even when we do our best to listen. We may fail to catch a ball thrown to us, even if we agree to play. Especially if we weren’t expecting it to be heavy.

I know some people will choose to disunderstand. We may swat the ball away, or let it drop because it didn’t land directly in our pocket.

I know some people will choose prejudice. If a fragment of something I say arouses alarm, people may run away without the whole. It is easier to jump to conclusions than to bear a complex or provocative idea to its completion. We may choose to shut ideas out, rather than allow another perspective to complicate our lives.

If others want to stereotype me, that’s okay. If you try to react to other humans as individuals, there are over 7 billion reactions possible. A handful of stereotypes is much easier to choose from. We can even choose which types of people to like before we meet them.

If someone chooses to open up and understand me, seeing who I am as an individual without jumping to conclusions or filing me away as a type of person, they may see me naked as a human being. It may not be pretty.

If others choose judgement in their lives, they may judge me. Is what I believe right or wrong? Good or bad?
Once we listen, we may choose to dissect ideas and people with the blades of our morality.

We may open ourselves up, or close ourselves off in protection and make a small safe world. Openness is vulnerable, and it invites messy things like love. Judgement has a satisfying crunch to it, and nothing compares to the bitter taste of contempt. It has the cleanest finish.

I will not distort my words to make them safe for others, conceal them to make them safe for me, or disguise them to make them attractive to anyone.

I choose to open up, and offer words from my heart. Others will find them useful or attractive.

Or something else will happen. I welcome it all.