I originally wrote this entry a year ago, and was thinking about this very subject this week when my son and I were having a philosophical discussion on “how do you know when you know yourself?” In trying to put down in words what we were discussing, I got myself into knots, and deleted the whole thing, when I suddenly had the impulse to look at articles I’ve written but not yet published. And there, right at the top, was this! Serendipity at work! Enjoy….
This is a local secondary school’s motto near where I live, and it always gets me shaking my head.
I can’t say too much about this other than to say that the children really don’t get time to know themselves! But what I wanted to think about today is how this short phrase applies to each of us individually. Do we really know ourselves?
There are certain things I know about myself because of how I feel in certain situations. For instance, I have an intense dislike of confrontation and will sometimes not stand up for myself or seek to turn a conversation to avoid confrontation although these days I would not go so far as to compromise myself or my principles. But the flip side to this is that I have a very active (or overactive) sense of fair play. If someone else is suffering an injustice, I leap in to defend them even at the risk of personal injury! Now how does that equate?? In Homer SImpson’s immortal words – Doh!!
Why do I do that? Is it a sensible thing to do? No – usually not! But somehow I can’t seem to help myself! Choices. No-one can say whether any choice is right or wrong. We have laws and social codes but they are only guides, and they can change over a period of time as society itself changes. We each live by our own personal codes, so we can only judge each other seen from our own standpoint. Also our own perspective changes as we mature (age!) and we can choose (if we wish) how to react to any situation. When we are born we seem to be hard-wired with one disposition or another but as we get older we can sometimes develop into the opposite of that.
So I’m back to where I started. And how do we get to know ourselves?
For me, it’s spending time on my own. Lots of time. Thinking. Reading. Weaving. Thinking some more.
Also it’s spending time with other people. Lots of different people in different situations. Watching. Listening. Talking. Listening some more.
I’m not a social animal by nature. However, give me a group of people with the same interests – weaving, philosophy, travel, readers, writers, music, theatre – and I’m as gregarious as anyone else. It’s like heads and tails, chalk and cheese. And I don’t think I’m alone in this. I cultivate what I’d like to become – so I don’t watch violent movies. I read to expand my mind and my soul. I travel to learn more and experience more about the world. I walk with my dog and examine closely the nature I see around me. I weave because I love art, and weaving and experimenting fulfils my soul.
I don’t know if what I do really helps me to know myself. All I do know is that I like doing these things and I feel that I’m getting to know myself. And perhaps that’s all any of us can aspire to.
The words and music from The King & I, “Getting to Know You”, are running through my head now. Perhaps it is more about getting to know others and finding through that that we get to know ourselves. Hmmm. I’d be interested in your thoughts……