347. Self-knowledge

October 29, 2014

My quest is for self-knowledge before I act in the world lest I confuse my view of the world for an accurate portrait of the world as it really is.

Just look around you at the world of today. It is largely a product of actions taken by people on the assumption that they look out on the real world and do not have to take their personal assumptions and beliefs into account. Ha! What a mess we are making in putting our unexamined selves forward in that way. Look at politicians, financial advisers, celebrities educators, and most of the movers and shakers who determine the nature of our lives.

My message is: know yourself first before turning yourself loose on the world.

That is: turn your attention inward to focus on your trials and errors, your emotions (which are trying to tell you something) across the spectrum from ecstasy and joy to fear and anger, your trifling grasp of the way the world works. Once you come to an understanding of and with yourself, then you are qualified to make forays into the world beyond your private shell. I refer to that shell as the black box your mind uses to protect itself. Before appreciating the isolation that box imposes on your mind, you are an apprentice just learning the ropes of how your mind works.

Everything I know about my own mind I have learned from careful study of the many mistakes I have made in perceiving, judging, and acting in the world. That study has been the greatest adventure of my life.

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346. Self-deception

October 29, 2014

My chief discovery through the medium of introspection is the degree to which our minds are creations of our own experience. They are not given to us so much as made by us out of the wholecloth of our daily living and memory of prior experiences. So when we gaze out at the world, the world we see is not so much the world that is there, but more the world we have created for ourselves to suit our personal temperament and inclinations. When Sunnis and Shias are at odds (or, say, Democrats and Republicans, men and women, young and old, Blacks and Whites), it is their respective world views that are at odds, not segments of the real world.

We all know this in the abstract, yet find it easier to do battle with one another on the basis of our favored, internal perspectives. Strange business! The history of the world is the story of our being at each other’s throats, not of reaching out in an effort to increase our personal understanding of what’s going on. In that, we seem determined to put our worst foot forward, as we did in waging war against Iraq in 2003, and now bombing ISIS out of existence (which is part of the same problem due to our myopic vision of the world).