When the writer creates their fictional character, they will consider the maxims that character will live by in the story. People love the moments when those characters extol their maxims and mottos. Those words and creeds inspire artwork, tattoos and Instagram posts. When we experience those words, we hold and cherish them deeply.
When we think of how we live, can we identify our life maxims?
Maxims take the weight of our experiences and the lessons we have learned and condense them down into simple phrases. However, that concept makes it difficult for us only to have a single maxim to represent the entirety of our lives. Instead, we should create a variety of maxims for us to fall back on and remind of us of what we have learned through our experiences.
The First Maxim: Life is its Own purpose
For close to a decade, I experienced casual suicidal thoughts and two occasions of genuine intent due to anxiety, depression, and the deep denial of my sexuality. That internal struggle dominated my teenage years and my early twenties leading to a place of incredible darkness. I struggled against myself, my many choices and mistakes. I reached a point where the thought of death over life was daily. Then I hit twenty-five years old, and my life almost hit rock bottom.
I survived. I built myself back up through a process of restoration. That includes changing careers from marketing to studying person-centred counselling and creating a sincere and loving relationship with my husband to be. I invest myself in philosophy, psychology and learnings on the human condition. I am reading, listening and consuming content on love, politics, literature, equality and empathy.
It is a life worthy of living that is of my creation, rather than one created through the introjected values of others. And my starting place for this renaissance was the belief that life is its purpose. To live and experience the reality we encounter, and shape is the only purpose we need because everything else is extra. To live is the point.
The Second Maxim: Creativity Is The Road To Freedom
Society enjoys restrictions, especially those based on morality. We rightly restrict things deemed dangerous, harmful and unethical. But on the flip side, we have a long history of limiting creativity and its expression through the prism of societal and religious moralism. That prism stifles creativity and therefore, the freedom to express it.
To fully embrace creativity and be courageous with it is to choose freedom. To write a story of unbridled truth regardless of the societal convention is an act of daring beauty. So it is with the film telling the story of the outcast or the oppressed from their perspective. Or the piece of music that reveals a great pain or triumph that unites its listeners through a shared experience.
The act of creating is the chance of exploring the human condition and making it understandable for the rest of us to witness. Through the creation of art is the creation of empathy. Through empathy, we grow closer and healthier with our fellow humans on a deeper level than society expects. It is thereby freeing us from the restrictions of others. To create is to choose freedom. Freedom for ourselves and others.
The Third Maxim: To Learn Is To Grow
In the UK, we are born and exist for an average expectancy of 81 years. For the first 18 years of that existence, we are in one form or enforced education, whether it be for initial survival, parental or state education. Once we are released, we are given a choice. We are free to learn or to remain the same. That choice can include going to university, embarking on an apprenticeship, or by investing time to learn a craft yourself. With the technology and resources available, learning has never been a more accessible option to choose.
For me, the tools for learning beyond my counselling training are reading, watching and writing. I read and listen to books on various topics, including biographies, philosophy and psychology. I watch interviews, debates and lectures from a variety of speakers on similar issues to those as mentioned earlier. I write to formulate my learning and establish my thoughts from that learning.
We have a natural desire to learn and to grow. So why not fully embrace that and learn the ideas and skills that will help fulfil your life. By choosing to learn, you want to grow.
The Fourth Maxim: Summum Bonum
In Latin, it means “the highest good” and was a famous expression of the Roman orator and statesman, Marcus Tullius Cicero. Cicero’s meaning was for us to reach for that higher good. It is for us to do the right thing and that nothing else matters.
It is an aim we could all strive for, yet I am the first to admit that I fail always to do the right thing. I am just human, after all. Sometimes it is due to honest error and others it is through deliberate action. If I do wrong, I try to rectify or apologise for it.
Yet with my continued growth, I strive more and more to do the right thing. Those include embracing the ideals of freedom, equality and empathy. Through action, that can be supporting groups who wish to achieve those ideals for all humanity as well as helping others make a life they want to live.
The highest good I aim for is the betterment of all humankind, and for me, that is through philosophy, psychology and the power of words. For others, it is technology such as Tesla or SpaceX, or science for the climate and health. There are so many avenues to help achieve the continued betterment of us all. It is about finding the right path for you.
These maxims guide me through my life. I sometimes need reminding of them, but overall, they are the focus for which I live my life. They are the cause for me, believing that each of us needs to identify and hold close the maxims of our individual lives.