Colors of The Mind #4

Autonomy vs Obligations

Make Life Worth Living (MLWL) is a project by Zaluso Arts whose goal is to explore and spark conversations about issues concerning mental health, through art.


Every now and then I wonder about life. I wonder about what I should be doing and what really matters. What does it mean to live a meaningful life? And why would I even want to?

I’m not going to go too deep into answering that today, what I’m interested in now is its relation to obligations and autonomy. How far are we morally bound to our tribes and ourselves and to what extent are we obligated to perform or dedicate our lives to others and how far must we dare to go when we listen to our own inner voice?

I’ll start with how deeply we are bound to our tribes; by tribe I mean any deep social commitment such as family, any group of people who has played some part in out upbringing or growth. I want to focus on family because I think, for most of us, family has played a huge part in our upbringing and establishing our lives, but I do believe this can be applied to any sort of relationship.

I think we can all relate to the pressures of our families expectations. From birth our parents or siblings expect us to be a certain way. They expect us to go to school, and work hard, and follow rules and be respectful. They may even expect us to take on certain roles at home or in business, or even expect us to pursue specific careers. Some of us are raised more freely, while others are almost oppressed. Although I think we all need to negotiate some form of expectations.

I have wondered, quite deeply, about how committed we should be to giving our parents what they want, how far must we perform. I think it’s only fair if they have given you so many chances and opportunities and love that you should give something back to them, maybe it isn’t too much to give them your life because you wouldn’t have one without them. However, you did not ask for a life, you did not ask to be born, perhaps you wouldn’t have wanted to? So them taking care of you is just the price they have to pay and you have no business giving them back anything for a life you never asked for in the first place.

I guess it’s a question of finding a balance, although trying to negotiate this may be a luxury for most who live under oppressive parenting. However, shoutout to the parents who don’t expect much from their offspring except that they live us fully and freely as they can.

So how, how far must we dare to follow our own voices. How far do we trust our inner desires and visions? I think we are all naturally attracted to different things and are drawn to and digest different ideas in different ways. So sometimes, often even, what we want may seem odd to others. Sometimes we’re not even sure if what we want is possible and perhaps we just need to try.

Which brings me to my next point; the need to try, the importance of listening to our inner desires. Just how deeply do we owe it to ourselves to do what we want? I think this is a matter of grave importance, for different reasons.

Firstly, it’s good for the world. A lot of us live in spaces where we feel quite strange or out of place and it’s always reassuring to pick up a book or see a video or find whatever form of content that speaks to you. Often it’s something that says something you’ve always thought about but never been able to express. Finding these things tends to help us feel a lot less alone in the world, as well as inspiring us to take on initiatives or try different things.

Also, a lot of great change has come from someone doing something different. A lot of genres in storytelling have bee influenced by someone daring to try something a little odd, something that they felt was true within themselves.

It’s also just important for ourselves I think. Not to sound too superstitious, but I like to believe that our souls are naturally aligned to different things, and when we’re not doing things that satisfy those alignments we tend to feel a lot less alive. It’s healthy to do the things that we like. It feels good.

As I mentioned before the challenge comes in when you must balance this with what your tribes expect from you. I for one am still struggling to find this balance, not just with family but also in other areas of life where there are people who affect my life.

What do you think? Must we devote ourselves to those who have shaped us or shall we fully commit ourselves to our dreams, even if they clash with those we love?



Author: Akulu Lipenga is a visual artist, creative director and head of the Colors Of The Mind project.

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