As young man, a skeptic, and a follower of Jesus of Nazareth, I struggle to think and act in a way that is consistent with a set of core values while constantly seeking to develop, refine, and discover a set of core values in the first place. Life, in the absence of a clearer term, is complicated. Believe it or not, the systems of belief on which most people ground their decision making and personalities are unique to them and based on personal intuition, not on unassailable truths and not on valid authorities.
Understanding this quality about myself is not easy and coming to terms with it is a daily struggle in which I backslide constantly. Progress is deceptive, always relative, always uncertain, always suspect as such. What is necessary for a person to be “real” with themselves is a willingness to let go of opinions, beliefs, even values, in a continual process of returning to a foundation. This hurts more often than not, and letting go of certainties always makes hope a little harder.
So why is this process worth the effort or consideration? One may observe details of their own life for support or dismissal, I personally have found overwhelming support for the value of a recurring return to emptiness. “It is only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything”. As the world increasingly accepts a social doctrine of relative truths, it seems that:
A) the noble, righteous, and just of humanity’s past are remembered as historical occurrences alone or forgotten altogether.
B) the accumulated wisdom of how to live one’s life well (in all of that idea’s possible variations) are disregarded as opinions and biases to be marginalized against the necessity of “choice”.
C) those aspects of human experience which make our uncertain and difficult lives worth living, namely joy, love, connection, creativity, achievement, and well-being, are becoming scarce treasures or distant memories, after thoughts to the priorities of production, security, and individuality.
Constantly returning to a baseline of judgement and evaluating oneself on criteria which place value in those moments, triumphs, and experiences such as love and connection reveals how vacuous and deceitful our world has become. Such contemplation exposes the lies we tell ourselves and choose to believe about what is important in life and how we should engage in personal growth and contribute to our brothers and sisters in society. What emerges isn’t a set of absolute truths, but neither is it a set of relative ones.
Considering yourself and your actions carefully in this way leads not to hardline truths but to understandings. In self-examination one learns not the right way to behave but are conscious of a process of behaving. Not what to think but how to think. Not knowledge of the world but knowledge of the self.
As a side note:
Significance or meaning, as I understand it, is an emergent property of identity. Something or someone’s purpose is tied to those things which give it difference and function. In one’s potential to create their identity is found the potential to derive purpose. Thus knowledge of the self through creation of the self is simultaneous with discovery and acting out of life’s purpose. It is the unique quality of human life that living humans create themselves.
I loved this. Why did you tag emptiness, though? That was pretty integrated and to the dot.
I noticed two things from what you wrote that I’ve been thinking about lately and remembered two quotes. “Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.” – Erich Fromm
“Perhaps it’s impossible to wear an identity without becoming what you pretend to be.”
― Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game
Great read. I don’t know if you needed feedback or just needed to let your thoughts out, but I liked it.
Thank you for your comments! I tagged emptiness because part of the process I consider here is tied to Buddhist and Christian conceptions of “emptying oneself” or striving for “poverty of spirit”. It is a philosophy of letting go of the superfluous and mistaken, the prideful and the self-assured aspects of ourselves in order to be refilled with a greater love and understanding of ourselves and the world, be that through non-attachment, compassion, the holy spirit, or simply contemplation.
I especially resonate with the second quote as I love the book and have run across similar sentiments that I consider important. Friedrich Nietzsche often discusses how our entire lives are constituted by illusions, that there is no truth to the external or internal worlds that is not subject to deception or misunderstanding. This however is not necessarily a bad thing, as understanding the mechanisms of these “necessary illusions” allows us to see past the surface of people’s actions and words as well as our own understanding of ourselves and take greater control of those illusions.
Another is the famous line by Shakespeare in As You Like It,
“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,”
So many people are so concerned with being “real” or finding “truth”, well maybe the truth is that untruth is inherent in everything we perceive. Maybe reality is merely a story we tell ourselves? Can we be the authors of this story? Or are we content to sit and let it be told to us.
I happen to believe in daring more than in adaptation and more in empathy than in power. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Jane Goodall, but I agree with her that where science went wrong is the lack of understanding of empathy when researching, conducting studies, being real even though we’re always influenced. Put being daring to empathize in one human being and he’ll be an artist and a scientist. Truth and reality are not complicated, but our explanations and definitions are limited.
This is the simple video. She even mentions how she’s been criticized like there’s a line between solid science and the personalization of a being.
The truth is you are what influenced you to make the most sense of it. I am too.
Necessary illusions are like being naive to believe in something, because you can achieve it and naivety loses its definition. I personally never agreed with Nietzsche entirely only because the society he lived in and aspired to be has a fragment of truth, just like in every other author’s perspective that seeks our core and tries to explain it. The absolute truth is our ability to empathize and the ability to choose or ignore with whom or what.
I also love this quote.
“In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves. And then, in that very moment when I love them…. I destroy them.”
― Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game
Most of the suffering we experience is people abusing their empathy and I don’t think anyone is innocent of that, because that’s where that “play on a stage” starts.
Every moment is emptying by grasping, failing, surrendering to the lack of structure. The creation of self is only concrete because it’s possible to hold the intentions against the insecurity and unknown. The act of opposition is the only form.
This was actually my post from an old account before I took a break from HE.. but your reply is something I needed to hear right now.
Glad to hear it! I haven’t been active on here for a long time because school has kept me swamped, but I’m planning on coming back to the community. I think it has strayed a little ideologically, unfortunately. A little too drug/me oriented, could use some new perspectives.