Sunday, May 24, 2009

First Principles: Know Thyself...

We are a curious creature, are we not? I do believe we are the only ones that can actually think about ourselves while simultaneously thinking about thinking about ourselves...

But that's a philosophical dead-end... At the moment...

Oddly, most of the things that form who we are as people are locked in the recesses of our minds, the formative years in which most us (if not all of us) cannot recall nor think about or ponder on--between the merging of our genes from our biological parents to the nurturing we receive in the beginning (not to sound all biblical about it!) make us who we are, and in turn bias us toward a lot of our later actions, desires, motivations, fears, worries, and wonders. Not that these cannot change through either further outside or inner factors (a death, an injury, the continuation of "nurture" in a sense), but most of us experience a relative "freedom" from the most cruel and unusual of circumstances, allowing us to mostly remain the core human being we became at conception through young childhood. (Granted, these are my opinions and feel free to disagree, of course, but from all I've seen and read and thought over, this mostly holds true...)

Anyway, back to it: The other evening, I was out having a great evening and it was said to (and about) me, "He avoids adversity. The only adversity he's ever had was the military!" Regardless of the emotions this elicited from my mind, it did begin my mind turning and thinking: Isn't "adversity" really open to interpretation? I mean, not only is one man's adversity another man's walk in the park, so to speak, but the term itself tends to open-ended gradation, doesn't it? I mean, what is adversity? And who is to decide how much is "too little" or "too much" adversity for one person to bear? And further, is an avoidance of adversity a sign of cowardice, or a sign of intelligent avoidance? Again, it's probably in the eye of the beholder sitting in judgment of another, isn't it?

My mother is very fond of saying "God never gives anyone more than they can bear." Of course, if that were true, no one would ever go crazy or insane in traumatic times, would they? Of course, she is also fond of saying "Everything happens for a reason," as if reasons were the end-all be-all of our existence.

Or are they? One of the first things we learn as children is to ask "Why?" Why indeed! "Why is the sky blue?" "Why can't I go there?" "Why did you say that?" All in an attempt to find out where we are, and how we fit into that picture, our environment. While many a child has driven their parents up one wall and down the other with the endless queries, these are the times and the questions which form the later human being (if indeed circumstances even lend themselves for a child to ask about who it is and why it's there...!). All of which will eventually lend itself to how these young persons will react (or act) in the face of "adversity" of whichever degree presents itself (in terms of one's perceptions of adversity and its varying degrees that individual thereof holds!).

If any given person takes the time to reflect on what they do or don't find to be adverse, that is. How many persons take the time (perhaps we should ask, have the time? make the time?) to not only think about things in general, but themselves in particular? Why they feel this way about this? That way about that? A certain reaction to this person or that circumstance?

A certain general attitude?

I'm a big "believer" in you are who you think you are (scare quotes on purpose--know why?) and an even bigger "believer" in that only you can make that happen. But beyond that (and this may get a bit dodgy, I suppose) I find it even more important to let others be themselves, if you catch my meaning. To say it slightly longer and a bit clearer (I hope!), just as it is important to know yourself and hopefully to like yourself, I believe it just only slightly less important (perhaps equally as important) to let others be themselves insofar as it is not an infringement on others (or yourself). A large part of who you are is how you react and engage with others in your environment, both from within and without!

Of course, this greatly simplified philosophical excursion has smaller parts and larger ramifications (what wandering wonderings don't!) but to slightly sum up (without getting into the personal details--after all, I have to retain some type of mystery or else you'll grow bored and find someone younger!) when it comes to one's proclivities toward engaging, avoiding, embracing, or dealing with "adversity," can one really say for certain who is dealing with them and how they are fairing?

Or should we simply reserve our harshest judgments for ourselves and allow others to lead their lives in whatever manner makes them content?

Should contentment even be one of our goals in life?

Okay, this could go on forever, granted. Suffice it to say this:

There is always a well-known solution to every human problem--neat, plausible, and wrong. --H.L. Mencken, Prejudices
Indeed. But the beginning of finding a solution that isn't wrong?

Know thyself.

The rest should fall into place...

Unless you find out you aren't any good at it... :D

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