Which I am I?
What “The examined life” is about (chapter intro):
Hand in hand with the disease of apathy, which we looked at in The Waiting Place chapter, is a growing lack of self-awareness in society. Today’s great tragedy is that so many of us just let life happen to us while we take the path of least resistance. We merely react to circumstances as we encounter them. We think this is so much easier than taking a deep, hard look in the mirror and doing some soul searching. And we love all the noise of today’s new technologies and media, for the louder and more distracting the noise, the less we are reminded of that mirror.
You would think that social media and reality TV might prod us into action. Shows like American Idol should rouse us to find our better selves. The feel-good stories across the web should inspire us into action. But no, for most of us, we simply don’t make that connection to our own lives. “Success stories and inspirational living is for those other people, not me,” we tell ourselves as we flip to another channel or scroll to the next thing that catches our lazy eye.
We rarely look in the proverbial mirror, for we don’t want to compare who we see with the person we’ve seen in our mind’s eye since our youth. Too few of us take quiet time in our lives to look inward. The result is that we’ll never follow our life’s dreams—much less imagine them in the first place—because we never look at ourselves beyond the surface level features that can be posted (and altered) on social media.
Or perhaps many, like me, know what their life’s purpose and dreams are, but just don’t think it’s possible to actually pursue them. Call it a lack of confidence, or a lack of motivation to start such a massive effort, or a lack of passion when compared to the easy life of lesser resistance. Or all of the above.
I’ve more or less known for 30 years what my purpose here on Earth is. But it took half a century to get moving. Very sad, but at least I’m moving on those dreams now.
The great irony is that once you do summon the courage to pursue your dream, almost magically, the people, the resources, the clues, and the know-how all start falling into place. Then as you start talking about your dreams out loud, help and insight and connections start to materialize as well. It all starts to feel and become real. Before you know it, new and bigger dreams start materializing.
I agree with Socrates’ harsh sentiment when he said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Without self-examination we are just shuffling our way through this world like an unnoticed ghost, a ghost with no purpose or value to anyone, not even to ourselves. How can anyone else see purpose and value in us if we haven’t looked in the mirror long enough to see purpose and value ourselves?
“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict everything you said today. — ‘Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.’ — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (Self-Reliance, 1841)
“If I only knew who I am. Which I am I?” ~ Yevgeny Zamyatin, We