“One life is all we have, and we live it as we believe in living it. But to sacrifice what you are, and to live without belief, that is a fate more terrible than dying.”
(Joan of Arc, 1412-1431)
Not my words, and not really even uncommon sentiment. Call it philosophy, or theology, if you will. I’ve expressed similar thoughts through the years, in various ways, but so have many people over the coarse of time, even before Joan of Arc, I’m sure.
But what is it about this concept?
Maybe these people know something.
There are three implications contained in Joan of Arc’s brief statement. 1.) The idea that we are free to live life as we believe, 2.) That there is truly someone, a person, that ‘you are’, and, 3.) To live without belief is an affront to the person that you are.
Perhaps the most important of the three is that there is a person that ‘you are’.
It is the acquiescence to this belief that the fullness of life depends.
There are, unfortunately, many people that we masquerade as, sometimes consciously, sometimes unaware. We put on different acts and faces as we move through different segments of our lives. We take on different behaviors to fit different social expectations, and different belief systems to please those who wield power or influence over us. Or to ingratiate ourselves with those we want to be like. But in moving so smoothly, and so effortlessly, through these various personas we actually become strangers to ourselves, losing touch with our very essence. We end up not really knowing who we are. We make initial compromises, and ultimately engage in the compromising, even, of our compromises.
It gets easy to lose one’s self.
But there is a ‘who’ that we are, an intrinsic ‘who’, a basic ‘who’. It is the person that we actually are, and it is the person we must protect from getting lost beneath the masquerade. That person is born with a purity of soul, since corroded, unfortunately, by profane imposition and clumsy choices. The initial clarity, and transparency, is spiritual in nature, it is embedded in our DNA, and is a direct connection to the source of who we are. It is who we were before we took on the complex, and complicated, baggage of life. That person still exists within us.
With the complexity of modern life, self-assessment is not a practice that too many people engage in these days, except maybe in the context of self-actualization workshops of some kind or another. And even then, the self-assessment is done in the framework of participation in, and measuring oneself against, that narrow modality with its accompanying agenda, rather than in the context of one’s intimacy with one’s own inner self, and one’s creator. But it is the validation, and self-validation, seekers who participate in such fruit salad endeavors. They are not the Joan of Arc’s.
Joan of Arc was martyred (murdered, really) because she lived her belief. She did not compromise who she was. She did not seek validation, or a happiness quotient to be OK with herself. She sought an honesty beyond even the apparent.
And she did not live a slow death, as some of us do. It’s true, she lived a short life, only nineteen years, but she died living honestly.
We are not asked to die for our authenticity.
We are only asked to live it.