Franklin Veaux (tacit) wrote,
Franklin Veaux
tacit

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Some thoughts on self-knowledge and happiness

This comment actually comes from a conversation I'm involved in in a UseNet newsgroup elsewhere. It's part of a conversation thread regarding the skills and values that are positive or necessary in a polyamorous relationship. Another person in the conversation posted the usual list you'll see in any poly discussion anywhere--you know, honesty, communication, that sort of thing. I added one more thing to the list; "Know thyself."

One could reasonably say that this idea has not been well-received.

My commentary:

There is a difference, I believe, between a person who can't answer general questions about himself because he feels that it doesn't offer enough insight into what's being asked or because he feels he has no place to start, and a person who can't answer a general question (or a specific question, or for that matter just about any question about himself whatsoever) because he *does not know.*

Now, I'm about to make a series of statements which, if my experience holds up, will probably upset, threaten, or anger approximately 50% of the people who read them. Nevertheless, I will stand by all of them, because I believe they're true. :) Ready? Here we go!

1. Self-knowledge is an important and valuable tool; all other things being equal, a person who seeks to know and understand himself, a person who develops not only the skills but the *habit* of introspection, will probably be better off in many ways than a similar person who does not.

2. Self-knowledge is a process, not a state of being. It requires constant work, constant self-examination, and a genuine desire and commitment to understanding what makes one tick. Because it's work, and furthermore because it's work that never ends, there are many people who hate, despise, fear, feel threatened by, or otherwise respond strongly against the notion that self-knowledge has value. in fact, with some people, the statement "Self-knowledge is a valuable thing to have" will get much the same response as "Sex with dead animals is a good thing to have."

3. Self-knowledge is valuable to relationships--not just polyamorous relationships, but relationships of any sort. Like communication, self-knowledge is both a tool and an approach; it benefits a relationship because a person who has a reasonably good grasp on who he is, how he reacts, and what makes him happy has a clearer idea of his wants, needs, boundaries, and so on than a person who does not, and therefore can more easily explain those to his partner. It is possible to have a good relationship with poor self-knowledge, just as it is possible to have a good relationship with poor communication skills, but having good self-knowledge, like having good communication skills, makes things a whole lot easier.

And just in case there's anyone who's not pissed off yet, this one should really do it:

4. Self-knowledge makes happiness easier to achieve.

Now, no reasonable person is static; I may know things about myself today that turn out not to be true tomorrow. This is why it's a process, and this is why it requires work...and this, I believe, is why so many people hate it so much. Nevertheless, i submit that if you do not know what you want, you can not reasonably expect to have what you want, except by accident.

One of my favorite quotes comes from Francis Bacon, who wrote "Your true self can be known only by systematic experimentation, and controlled only by being known." I also happen to agree with one of the things Socrates said: "The unexamined life is not worth living."

Judging by the popularity of TV reality shows, I would suspect that many peope probably disagree with me, and would be more likely to believe that the untelevised life is not worth living. That's fine with me.
Tags: philosophy
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