People usually speak of their beliefs, ideals or people they love and value as worth dying for. I like to think of such things as something worth living for.
As I see it, when you say you would die for something there is no real challenge to the thing you say you are willing to die for. Death, as an end, is uncompromising in claiming its domain over a life, painting over the grays of subtlety and nuance with the stark tones of black and white. However, what something means to us is shaded and shaped in the soft tissue of context, and usefulness, not constructed in the assembly line of content and then brushed in definitive colors.
Therefore, one of the great challenges we face in life is learning to negotiate with the introduction of an altered view, a new consideration, and then navigating our way through the resulting shift in belief and value, and living, that no longer serve the evolving Self…assuming we accept the premise of the shift and agree to undergo that shift.
What then? What if the thing you say you’re willing to die for loses its place in your value system?
Such a process, and experience, brings us to that crossroad of life where we are invited to experience death in living, while living, as living! Death as living! That is, the experience of transitioning from one way of seeing, being, and operating in the world to another.
To die for something ends the conversation; to live for something, or more to the point, for something other than what you know, for what you believe and hold sacred, invites you into a deeper, more thoughtful and expansive discourse that may reveal surprising articulations of the language of life and being.
Here’s what you can do then:
Take inventory of your beliefs, your values, your norms, your standards and engage them in meaningful discourse and inquiry. Don’t judge them (your beliefs, norms, etc) and don’t judge your questioning and reconsideration of them. Leave judgment outside of this process and if there is fear, that’s fine – engage this process in spite of the fear. If you let fear stop you in this work then most likely you are letting fear stop you in living the living you want.
You can start with basic, ‘safe’ subjects like your career choice, where you live, a fear or phobia you deal with, or why choose to root for a certain sports team.
- Can you choose a different career? (which you certainly can)
- What would be needed to make a career change? (it’s hardly ever what you think)
- What limitations, or limiting beliefs, have you placed on yourself that keep you from making a significant career change? (e.g., ‘I don’t have a degree’; ‘I’m not smart enough’; ‘My Mother said I would never make money doing this’; ‘John tried and he failed – and if he failed there’s no way I could do it!’)
- Why do I continue to live in an area I don’t like?
- If I could live anywhere in the world, where would I live?
- As a fan of X sports team, could I possibly root for, or just like and respect, Y sports team?
And on and on.
If you’re feeling more daring, or more constrained, then venture out to more sacred realms:
- Why do attend the church I attend?
- Why do I believe in this God/book/religion as the only true one?
- How does my atheism serve me? How does it not serve me?
- By holding this belief do I view myself as chosen, elite, or better than others?
- If I held this view (any view opposite your own) how would I see the world?
- If I held this view (any view that ‘opposes’ yours) would I be less Human?
- Can I coexist peacefully, lovingly, and productively with members of an opposing view/system/tribe/nation? How can I build meaningful bridges?
- Why is monogamy the way marriage is done in the West/my religion/my community?
- Are non-monogamous relationships inherently ‘evil’ or ‘wrong’ or ‘doomed to fail? Why or why not?
- Why do I oppose abortion?
- Why do I oppose same-sex marriages?
- Why do I hate/fear members of this ‘race’ or ethnic group? Can I learn to accept, respect and love them?
And on and on.
There are 1,000 subjects you can explore and 1,000 questions you can ask about each subject. There is no map or syllabus and YOU are the Captain of this ship, the explorer into new and mysterious lands.