Thoughts on introspection. (A Philosophical Musings entry.)
|I’m not certain I can tell you what actually defines a person. Hell, I think I’ll have a difficult time trying to explain what makes me what I am. What I do know is that it’s very complicated, and many people with much greater insight have been trying to figure it out for a long time. I do believe that Descartes felt much more needed to be done when he wrote, “I think, therefore I am.” In fact, if you research it, it seems like it was just the beginning, and really wasn’t meant to stand alone, even though many just stop with that quote. That just makes it silly. There are many things in the world that exist that don’t think at all, humans included. That leaves me wondering how I should approach defining what really makes me what I am. Certainly thinking is a part of it, but what should I be pondering if I really want that answer. Well, if it’s to be found in philosophy, I’d go with Socrates, the father of all of it in the western world. Plato wrote, "An unexamined life is not worth living." However, it is attributed to Socrates in a speech given at his trial. It has a simple meaning for me. If you cannot understand why you act and think in a particular way, you can go an entire lifetime fooling yourself into believing in motivations that do not exist. Deep introspection is a key to understanding not only what you are, but why you act in a certain manner. Since you constantly evolve, it’s very important you keep up with the changes.
I’ll use an example with something I’ve written and is in my WDC portfolio. Occupational Changes was recently featured in one of the WDC newsletters, and I’m very thankful to the author. Here is something you could not possibly know. I originally wrote that piece, or something very similar, under the title So Shall Ye Reap back in the early 80’s. To my chagrin, it was never published, but thinking back, I’m fairly certain it wasn’t very good. I kept that manuscript for a while, but I moved so often back then I lost it within a couple of years. It amazes even me that I still recall all of the bones of that story, and was able to rewrite it. The new story is much better than the first in many ways, but much of it is because I added quite a bit of life experience I gained in the thirty-five-year gap. The other reason is that even though much of my writing in between was technical and work reports, I still have become better at the craft. However, one of the most amazing parts of the whole process was looking back at my life and assessing, or even re-assessing my life. I looked at my experience, my thought processes, and choices I had made and the reasons behind them. It made the whole experience exceptional. I say, "When I compose things, they compose me back." It’s in my biography, and I mean it.
It isn’t all about writing, of course. Mostly it isn’t, actually, as it’s about knowing why you take certain actions. Humans are the only animal that can rationalize what they do, and they are often very good at it. It doesn’t even have to be something bad. It can just be mundane items you know you should be doing, but simply prefer to skip. There was a question recently in a WDC newsletter about writing being a chore. Even if one doesn’t feel that way, it’s very easy to explain to yourself that you are much too tired, and watching television is a better option. Perhaps it the truth, or perhaps something is coming on you might want to watch. Only you know for sure, and only you can realize your own truth.
It gets much harder when an individual is actually doing something wrong, especially when it affects other people. I would know. When I was a younger man, I wasn’t a very nice person. Nothing within me would stop me from lying for my benefit, cheating to win or take what I wanted, or flat out stealing to enrich myself. However, even though I was a despicable character for the most part, I was well aware of what motivated me. I wasn’t lying to save someone’s feelings, nor was I taking what I wanted out of need. For the most part, anyway... I didn’t believe the world owed me. I just wanted what I wanted, and I took it. Years went by living like that, and then one day it all changed. It would take quite a bit of writing to explain why it happened, but I can it wasn’t for any traditional reason. It wasn’t about getting married, it wasn’t that my children came along, nor did I suddenly find religion. My moral compass just needed to change, in my own opinion, and point in a better direction. One of the best parts of the new way that I live is that I might not lie to you, but there is no restriction from telling you to mind your own business or simply keeping my thoughts to myself. I know precisely why I changed. You probably never will.
Although I know it’s been said by more learned people in better form, I’ll end with this thought. The worst lie you can tell is the one that you tell to yourself.