To Know Thyself

I don’t post much and I think that has to do with an idea that gnaws at me, the idea being that there is no such thing as an original thought. I think that maybe the only real originality or creativity is in the realm of art, but in those cases it more often than not borders on the meaningless, at least in my experience.

Everyone believes they think for themselves, whatever that means. I would counter that you are far more influenced by external factors; things like peer pressure, advertisements, your culture, social & news media, your upbringing or some poem or story you read somewhere that you can’t even place, all these things affect us and push us in one way or another. I think in essence creation emerges out of context, a confluence of factors that we are unaware of.

This is why I think the aphorism of “know thyself” is more than a little naive, as if someone saying it believes they are saying something profound when it is anything but. To know thyself would entail being able to fully account for who you are, why you do the things you do, why you think, feel, and believe the things you hold dear. I think there is a trap here, where the collective “we” confabulates a story to account for ourselves.

If I had to guess confabulation makes sense, we make up narratives in our head because we all like to think linearly and we believe in simple causation as it makes for a nice tiny bow. I think a part of it as well, is how we like to believe we are in control of our lives and the sense of who we are. However the reality of it, of you, and the society you live in is so much richer and more vast that I have a hard time believing anyone can come up with some grand story or explanation that satisfies completely.

So to sum up I would say that philosophy or logic fails if we are to know ourselves, and by implication to be “masters of our own domain.” I would even go so far as to even question the validity of freewill, however I am not versed well enough in that topic to really delve into such a thing, but I have doubts.

The only things we can know, are the things that move us, the things that inspire. Perhaps we can never know ourselves all the way down to the core, but maybe we don’t have to, maybe conviction and following your own path based on that conviction is enough. Rather than knowledge what is needed is a “correct” opinion to guide us, some rules, even if they aren’t universally true.

I don’t advocate relativism, I still believe that we should be able to account (or defend) our beliefs and convictions to others if we have to. I used to believe in Platonic truths, that there were objective facts out there, but I have come around and now it seems meaning has become more important to me. Perhaps we find meaning in carving out a path for ourselves, while others carve out a path based on traditional expectations; get an education, have a career, get married and have a family. I suppose for some that is enough meaning to satisfy, however for people like myself I want more than that. I want to self transcend and contribute something to society, not just focus on my own needs…