Having Lives to Lead: Part 2

In the last post, I began with a simple yet unshakable intuition, which was that you and I want to make something of ourselves, to do something with our lives. I went on to suggest that two assumptions about leading our lives and realizing ourselves are at the root of this intuition.

What does this statement mean: I have a life to lead? Well, certainly it means more than the idea that I am a living being, more also than the idea that I can follow my instincts to preserve and nourish myself. It seems strange to think that I ‘have’ something that is ‘mine’ to do with not entirely as I please (since circumstances and outside forces will have an impact of my ‘possession’). Somehow, we cannot shake the idea that I have a life, it is mine, and it can be led.

I believe the statement means that my life can take on a certain shape, a certain form, and that I can make it (to some degree within my powers) take on this shape or this form. Moreover, this form of my life, even while it can be modified, is meant to be ‘final’ in the end. The fact that I keep living is contingent, but the shape or form of our lives, it seems, we want to be coherent and final.

Our lives, therefore, can be well-shaped, well-formed or not. Maybe my life does not make sense to me in that it lacks form or because I certainly can’t make out the shape of the life I have so far led.

Our lives too can be well-shaped, yet they may not be the forms of life that we want to lead. Thus others may admire the form of our life, but we do not since it doesn’t seem to fit us. Not fitting us, we feel ourselves alienated from our lives: a bizarre but common enough experience.

So, our lives, being ours to lead, are such that we want them to be (a) well-formed and (b) reflective of our most burning desires. If (a) isn’t so, then we cannot make sense of things. If (b) is not true, then we speak of ‘wearing a mask.’

Certainly, what is introduced into the locution of ‘having a life to lead’ is, finally, (c) the temporal unfolding of such a life in a certain way and in a certain direction. Our lives are coming to be shaped nicely, we want these lives and not some others, and we can, as if we were observers, enjoy how they are unfolding over time.


As we approach the idea of autonomy–that we want to make something of ourselves–we will be able to say more about not just ‘having a life’ but our actively fashioning and refashioning the life that is ours.

The claim that we have lives to lead provides partial backing for our intuition that we want to make something of ourselves, to do something with our lives. In the next post, I intend to consider the statement: ‘We want to become more than what we were given.’