…appreciating our endowments…

“Every human has four endowments self-awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom… The power to choose, to respond, to change.” —  Stephen Covey

This quotation by Stephen Covey highlights the four endowments that constitute our “human” heritage.  Each root image is associated with one endowment.  As Covey makes clear, all four endowments are necessary to realize freedom and to enable us to “choose, respond, and change.” So how might the root images be useful in helping us appreciate the four endowments?

First, let me provide the necessary associations.

  • Self-awareness correlates to the Uroborus  – the snake devouring its tail;  the more we consume our experiences and apply ourselves to understanding them better,  the more self-aware we become.
  • Conscience correlates to the Mirror – reflecting upon oneself, or specifically upon the meaning of ones actions;  to do this engenders ownership, flexibility and meaning are all attributes of conscience.
  • Independent will correlates to the Self-Stone – action, contribution, and position are all byproducts of will and how we make decisions in the world.
  • Creative imagination correlates to the Containing Well – image values hold the best and worst of our experience, they are the source of our creative impulse; acceptance, forgiveness, and renewal are all creative acts which “project” us into the future.

So how might the root images be useful?  A concept represents its idea in one way, an image in another.  By offering “image alternatives,” there is a different appreciation for the endowment and how we relate to it. 

While self-awareness might be considered the primary endowment, to dismiss the other three would be to lose how freedom is realized.  Self-awareness does not make a decision.  Independent will does not create a set of alternatives.  Conscience does not cause the deed to be done.  Creative imagination does not manifest action or the  awareness.  My point here is not to “muddy” the contribution of each endowment, but to the identify the unique contributions of each , and to point out how they enable us to “choose, respond, and change.”

Additional understanding of “self-awareness” is created by associating it with the Uroborus and with health, development, and protection.  Why?  Because our most potent reactions are generated via immediate awareness.  “This is dangerous!,” “This will hurt!,” “Ouch!”  In these situations there is no time to think.  Our most instantaneous responses control us: “no!” “stop!” “don’t!” “wait!”  Pure reaction, but very self-aware.

Equally, a fuller description of “conscience” is generated by associating it with the Mirror and with ownership, flexibility and meaning.  Why?  Because experience, interpretation, and self-reflection  go to the heart of having a “conscience.”  Evaluations cannot be made without the ownership of experience, without the flexibility of interpretations, and without the accrued sense of meaning built over time.  Moral questions are unanswerable without these qualities.

Independent will gathers considerable clarity through its association with the self-stone.  Action, contribution, and position are expressions of integrity and decision-making.  As an implement of decision, a stone makes its divisions like a falling gavel, it compresses our values and judgements into specific actions which then take on force and power because we “stand true” within them.  Authenticity and identity are difficult to fathom without the evidence of decisive action.

Lastly, creative imagination is energetically charged through it association with the containing well.  Acceptance, forgiveness, and renewal are all crative acts that restore and prepare us for the future.  By falling backwards int the well of creative imagination we are given new sensitivity and perspective.  The source of our orginal being contains our deepest values and these are always generative, seeking to bring forth new life.

Thanks for listening.


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