You live both internally and externally. There is a way that your life seems to those looking at it from outside, and a way that things look and feel to you from the inside.
It is the difference between lived experience versus observed experience. It is the difference between subjective and objective , between science and spirit.
There are three possible stages that a person can move through in their lifetime: the aesthetic stage, the ethical stage, and the religious stage. Most people only go through the first step, and some more through the second step, though many fall short.
The main motivation in the aestetic stage is pleasure. This stage is basically a form of psychological hedonism (it feels good, it is good) and you are after pleasure, specifically the pleasure of experiencing beauty.
You are wrapped up in music, movies, and experiencing the wonder of life. The objective of each day and life in general seems to be to collect as much experience of beauty and pleasure as possible.
You gather all of the excitement and grandiose experience that you can. You stay up late, shirk responsibilities, and live fast. Your thought process is entirely focused on the present, and entirely focused on yourself.
You are not focused on enrichment (making youryself better). You are focused on personal gain. And those are two different things.
Enrichment involves becoming a better person. Gain involves just getting more , more stuff, more experiences, but not necessarily becoming any better for it. You involve few others in your life.
You are not there for anyone, and as a result, nobody is really there for you. That is the aesthetic stage, and it is a lonely and constantly disappointing existence.
In the ethical stage, you rise above your aesthetically focused mode of operation, and begin to follow the rules and laws of Society. Inclinations give way to obligations.
You feel responsibilities toward others – both particular others and others in general. You have kids, pets, jobs and coworkers, neighbors, mature friends.
Your relationships are no longer understood as transitory . There are more complex expectations, desires, and commitments. You also understand who you are in terms of those commitments.
Whereas you were once merely an individual out for your own gain and enrichment, you have now recognized principles worth submitting to. Now you operate based on something other than your desires and appetites; you try to do the right thing and the rational thing.
The highest stage of life that Humans can hope to be is the religious stage. The religious stage does not essentially involve any particular deity or belief system. It is not about that. Rather, it is about progressing past the previous two stages in life and onto something profound and pulsating.
The move from the aesthetic stage to the ethical stage is about moving away from particular things (possessions, experiences, people) and toward general things (principles, obligations, order & progress).
After some time, that begins to feel routine. It feels as if there is no higher purpose in it, other than to continue on doing the right thing and fulfilling obligations.
This final stage involves something more: a leap of faith, embracing a belief in something that you may not be able to prove to others, the kind of faith or confidence that comes from an internal passion and excitement. It is the kind of belief that moves you because it is utterly individual and unique.