In 2001, when I lived in Tracy, California, I attended the tri-stake institute in Stockton, or maybe it was Manteca. The teacher was Pres. Anderson, an amazing CES instructor. (He was transferred out to Utah shortly after I left Tracy… Do any of you know what happened to him, or what he’s up to now?)
Pres. Anderson started his lesson on the celestial kingdom with these words written on the chalkboard:
Two pedigreed Siamese kittens — Cost: $100
Is that a great deal? I don’t know how much Siamese kittens normally cost, but apparently it’s more than $100 a pair. He asked the class who would buy the kittens (with the caveat that you couldn’t purchase them just to re-sell them). The cat lovers raised their hands, and the rest of us abstained. His point was that the value of any deal is dependent on our tastes. $50 for a pedigreed kitten is only a great deal if you’re the kind of person who would like to have a pedigreed kitten.
He went on to draw a parallel between the kittens and the celestial kingdom, but I want to take the object lesson in another direction. If you consider that we each have one life to spend, what kind of “deal” would you like to get for your life?
- Scientific genius; nobel prize winner; contributor to the human understanding of the universe — Cost: One life
- Great parent; loved by spouse; raised successful, happy children — Cost: One life
- Celebrity star; inspiring to millions and adored by fans around the world — Cost: One life
- Peaceful heart; at one with the world; frequent visitor to secluded groves and mountain trails — Cost: One life
- Business management guru; transformed an unknown company into a global corporation, providing useful goods and services to billions — Cost: One life
- Misunderstood artistic visionary; created avant garde works that won’t be appreciated until decades after your death — Cost: One life
- Popular novelist; wrote entertaining fare that provided an escape for teenagers and SAHMs everywhere — Cost: One life
- Reliable employee; trustworthy, “gets the job done” kind of guy who stays out of the limelight — Cost: One life
- Failed dreamseeker; gambled everything in pursuit of your passions and lost it all, but at least you tried — Cost: One life
- The friendly neighbor; organized great barbecues and block parties; your home was always open to the kids in the neighborhood — Cost: One life
- Artisan extraordinaire; skilled with tools; created functional workmanship in wood, clay, or other media — Cost: One life
- Expert mechanic; can fix anything; the first person people call when their car stops working — Cost: One life
- Somewhat-well-known blogger; provided entertaining and insightful commentary on life — Cost: One life
What works are worthy of your life? These are your “valid” life choices — valid in the sense that they validate your life to you; they are in line with your values. Your valid targets include the items in the list above that make you say, “I would be satisfied if that were all that could be said of me when I die.” Your invalid targets are the ones that make you say, “What a sad waste my life would have been if that’s all that I amount to.”
This concept of “valid” life targets is at the heart of what I’ve been trying to communicate with my “forms of agency” posts (here and here). Each archetype will have different answers as to what constitutes a valid life. In fact, those differences are what define the archetypes.
In my previous posts I looked at the Knight and Healer archetypes. To give a quick introduction to the Muse archetype, I would say that a Muse might consider #3, #6, #7, #9, or #13 in the list above to be valid targets (as opposed to the Knight, who would validate #3, #5, #7, and #10, or the Healer who would validate #2, #4, #10, and #12). The Muse values exposure, creativity, and expression as valid uses for human life.
But for this post, I’m mostly interested in hearing about your own perceptions of valid life targets. Which items in the list would you validate? Which are invalid for you? And what would you add to the list?