I am not a perfect person, nor do I live in the illusion that I can or should aspire to be one.  But much of my life has been an adventure of self-definition that has inspired me daily to examine who I am, who I want to be, and how accurately my choices reflect my ultimate goals.  As the oldest child in a traditional nuclear American military family, I have enjoyed a life relatively unburdened by financial hardship or domestic instability that has freed my mind to the pursuit of philosophical and artistic expressions.  When you combine this with my precarious placement along the line of American evolution as a proud member of Generation X, I am infused with the civil and sexual liberations of my baby boomer parents and left searching for a sense of social identity against the backdrop of a raging consumer culture and massive technology explosion.  Noted for our pessimistic nature and general distrust of all institutions, we are usually painted as the nameless generation of apathy and misguided rebellion.  But despite our notorious reputation, we are the NEXT level in the evolutionary transition of this country and our position has primed us for the inquisition and exposition of new frontiers in collective human development.  For all our disgruntled nature and misplaced resistance, we are still the generation of emotion and spirit, calling forth a new understanding of the connection and expression of our higher selves.  Born with the blessings of generations before us, we have been gifted with the tools to build a better world and to raise the vibration of humanity, if we could only put down the I-pod shuffle and the Starbucks latte long enough to hear and hold truth.   

Seriously, our generation is like none other and the challenges and pressures of shaping our social identity in these exponential times is at least part of the instigation for our perceived apathy.  We’d much prefer to be tuned out, turned on, or toasted than face the tremendous responsibilities that complete the Gen X package. Hell, most of us cannot even function in this unprecedented cosmic matrix without a well-nurtured caffeine addiction.  But if we can navigate through the battlefield of reality television, MySpace profiles, and text messaging, there is an oasis on the horizon.  We are here to do great things.

 I have never questioned this calling in myself, but so much of becoming a great leader is learning lessons along the way.   It’s been a long journey, and I expect I have much left to learn, but I find that my most influential lessons have come from consistent self-evaluation with the simple question; do I live my truth?  Often times, I don’t want to ask the question or return an honest response because intuitively I already know the answer is in the realm of negative.  Living unconsciously provides the false impression that we can shelter our psyche from the discomfort of rejection and transition.  But in reality, we have become a prisoner to patterns, predispositions, programming and pathology. (yes, I did use that many Ps, get over it.)  Ultimately, we must ask ourselves if we are content to walk the paths we stumble upon or if there is a faster, safer, or more interesting route we’d like to customize for our pilgrimage on this planet.  More importantly, WHERE are you trying to go? 

Ironically, my life path (or more accurately, my bloody bushwhack through thorny thickets) has led me to become a college instructor with a primary focus on teaching the subject of critical thinking.  This profession and this material comes with the added responsibility of inspiring others to look honestly at how their choices shape their reality.  Academic research has revealed that the most effective method for retaining new information is to teach that information to others.  Therefore, my writing has become an extension of my academic research as part of my commitment to the never-ending process of self-enlightenment.   

What my studies and instructions have taught me is that the degree to which we have control over our lives and the degree to which we evolve personally and collectively is directly related to the degree to which we seek truth and live with conscious intention.  Many people do not have this luxury, as much of the world is caught in a vicious cycle of oppression, devastation and disconnection.  In fact, HALF of the human population lives in poverty (the US equivalent of $2 a day), forced to focus the majority of their energy and resources on the basic needs of survival.  While everyone is merely trying to make their way based on the circumstances presented, those of us who are fortunate enough to live our lives in the relative comfort and privilege of first world nations have very different choices.  Even with the tremendous imbalance of wealth and the obstacles of prejudice and bureaucracy that exist in our country, we all ultimately benefit from the freedoms and comparative affluence that result from our position in the world as a representative republic, a political and military powerhouse and one of the most prosperous economies in human history.   

In theory, even those Americans struggling among us have the advantage of a democratic process, a public education, and relatively stable government that provides some degree of national security, personal liberty, as well as the civil service and infrastructure necessary for commerce, mobility, and the opportunity for choice.  But with these opportunities comes responsibilities.  As citizens of a free nation who enjoy the fruits of blessed life, we have a duty to ourselves and our humanity to focus our time and attention on more enlightened endeavors.  In many ways we have succeeded in this monumental task through our commitments to art, music, and the cultivation of science and technology.  But as I look around me at the realities of 21st century life in America, I find myself searching for the faint pulse of the social and spiritual heartbeat of our dying national conscience.   

What does it mean to be an American?  What truths do we stand for, what values would we preserve with our own blood? Where is the primal battle cry that wells from the souls of fierce revolutionaries? Where is that uplifted voice that speaks for justice and equality and a better life, cracking and trembling with the passion of a collective conscience? What voice speaks for us now?  What does it say about our values, our vision, and the priorities that govern our daily lives?

I’ve decided that I am going to address this issue at length, covering many topics that point directly to the diagnosis of our failing spirit and prescription for renewed collective conscience.  (OMG, that sounds like the skeleton of a GREAT book! wink, wink)  So much of what I hear from many of my students, my friends and my family is cloaked in a nearly-hopeless apathy that leaves us all powerless to effect change in our own lives, let alone the world at large.  I hear people longing for a conscious life, but imprisoned by habit or tradition, limited by structural systems that are designed for self-destruction, and frustrated with a fractured and sensationally-distorted political process.   Even the true believers find ourselves distracted from our best intentions by the embellishments of affluenza and the mindless intoxication of a suffocating mass media.  And damn, who doesn’t appreciate a well-blended iced coffee beverage or the season finale of one of those super-sexy crime shows?   

I want to examine how we got here and tear down the walls that stand between our present condition and a holistically healthy and spiritually enlightened tomorrow.  Although I am not a medical physician nor a doctor of divinity, I do possess a doctorate degree, and while I am not a formally-educated authority on anything but law and legal systems (and that’s questionable), I love myself, my fellow human and this magnificent life enough to learn whatever is required throughout this process to lead us all toward healing. 

Now, this is not an entirely noble cause, because the first and vital motivation for this process is my very real desire to understand my own pain and suffering and break unconscious cycles of my own abuse and self-torment.  You see, I have every reason to be an entirely happy individual or at least happy enough to self-manage the inevitable results of my traumas without medication, and yet I have waged a somewhat persistent and serious battled with situationally-induced depression as a result of Post-traumatic stress disorder.   Really, though, other than my predictable but almost inconspicuous masochistic dance with sadness and anger, I am a highly positive, productive and successful member of society.  In fact, most people are quite surprised to learn of the darker side of my nature and my sporadic enslavement to it, because in all honesty it hasn’t held me back by traditional standards of American performance and personality.  At the risk of sounding arrogant, outstanding personal achievement is not some rare and random event that shows up a handful of times in my life.   I have been collecting first place ribbons and parchment paper certificates since I was old enough to understand what they represent.  I have excelled as a student, a professional, a leader, an athlete, a writer, a public speaker and debater, an actress and a singer.  I could fill several walls with the treasured symbols of a job well done. But I’m not just talking about a stack of honor roll cards and some plaque for best chili in the neighborhood cook-off.  I have performed a Best-of-State vocal duet to a standing ovation of many thousands, attended college on full scholarship to earn two separate Bachelor degrees in under 4 years with high honors, been recognized by some of the oldest and most prestigious honor societies in the world, accepted awards for my leadership as one of the most exceptional law school student presidents in the country, received national honors for my writing and speaking, and delivered an impressive law school commencement speech to a packed gymnasium.  I’ve introduced governors, senators, presidential administration, and Supreme Court Justices for speaking engagements, personally and officially welcomed presidential candidates, and generally rubbed elbows with some of the most influential people in the country.  I’ve bought and sold multiple properties for profit, traveled to 18 countries and managed to secure a nearly debt-free existence.  Now, while none of these feats is earth shattering, their cumulative consideration, as well as the fact that I completed them all before the age of 30 does present purpose for pause.     (Man, I LOVE that letter P.)

The reason for my digression into self-promotion is multi-purpose.  It provides decidedly helpful background information that will be relevant as we go along and it presents a very essential example of the contrast in human experience that introduces the questions: what are happiness and self-worth, how do we measure them, and how is suffering a necessary part of the dichotomy of human experience?  So how does someone with so much proven potential still have days when she no longer desires to continue living?  We’ll explore this and other sufficient examples of my imperfection as part of our examination of the crisis of collective conscience.

Fortunately, perfection is not a pre-requisite for effective leadership or inspired thought and an advanced medical education is not necessary for surgery of the soul.  It is not my desire to instruct anyone on how to live or what to think, but merely to ask WHY they live and whether the WAY they live serves their ultimate purpose on this planet.   

Even if you are clear about the answers to both questions, you should read my book anyway, because each of us can benefit from some honest introspection, there’s always more to learn, and I’m one funny bitch.  (: