The concept espoused by the American Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal” is probably one of the most evocative and game changing quotes in history. It raises the question ‘is this so?’ Whilst all men have a equal chance at birth, factors such as health, education, parents, money, gender and social class have a major affect on what occurs after birth. So... as a philosophical principle it is true, but then the realities of life’s forces change the landscape so much so that the playing field becomes uneven.
If this reality is then accepted as the truth, where does it leave us? If we are all born equal, it leads us to the issue of why some people succeed more than others. Those that have a privileged position can achieve good and great things easily, whereas a non-privileged person has to fight that much harder to achieve. All human beings have an aspiration characteristic within them and it is this attribute that creates the uneven playing field. For some this distinguishing quality burns mildly, but for others it may be a raging inferno.
Nevertheless can over-achieving be a problem? It reminds me of the quote “what good does it do a man if he gains the world but loses his soul.” Does aspiration therefore create conditions in the playing field that makes the principle that “all men are equal’ incorrect. The notion that we all want to better ourselves is a noble desire but this process is highly affected by aspiration. For some aspiration is just getting a small bonus at the end of the year, whilst for others it may be finishing your diploma, travelling the world or becoming the best in your field. Albeit, we all have potential and it is an accepted truth that we need to realise our full potential, as otherwise we waste ourselves on meaningless and frivolous trinkets of life.
The real challenge is then understanding where your current abilities lie, aligning your goals and aspirations together, identifying the gap, and then creating a personal plan to bridge that gap. This process is more difficult than explained here, as some people do not aspire too much, whilst others may find it difficult to work out the bridging plan to achieve a goal. This process calls us to be brutally honest about ourselves and therefore if it can be done, then an individual takes the first steps in becoming self aware.
Can it then be challenged that a person who does not strive to the best they can, be criticised for underachieving or failing to realise their full potential? What right does one individual have to criticise another’s lack of aspirations? Therefore the understanding that we are very different leads us to conclude that spiritual and personal growth will vary from individual to another. And from this growth compassion and tolerance will arise to enhance ones understanding of the human spirit.
If we all start our being equal, but life’s forces change the playing field, we can use our aspirations to realise our full potential and in achieving our full potential we may achieve self actualization. With self actualization we come to understand that we are all equal and all very different. In coming to this point, a certain spirit nobility is realised by understanding who you are and what you are. The key here is to dream and from this our aspirations are born. Embrace the challenges of bridging the gap as they will serve to make you stronger, developing a sense of self awareness and empathy.
Let me conclude this blog with the final paragraph from Desiderata: “And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”
- Kel Gleeson