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The Necessity of Self-Knowledge: The Modern Dilemma and Social Future


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What is happiness? How can we achieve fulfillment? What is our purpose here? Among all other questions, and despite all other quests, these are questions that define the human race as a whole. There are many ways to answer them. Some choose to answer these question by choosing a religion, giving themselves to it, and deciding that that is the correct answer. Others choose logic. They look to science, reason, and rationality to reach some kind of understanding. Still others find their solace in materialism, egotism, and hedonism, seeking the most earthly kind of fulfillment. All of these options, however, are missing something. It is this something which becomes the answer of the questions and the key to the mystery of life. This element cannot be known. Its very nature and properties dictate that it must remain unknown, lest it lose it power and meaning and life becomes inconsequential.
Our lives, as they stand now, have a specific order of importance to us. No matter who you are, your race, social standing, economic background, any of it, your life is still made of the very important things, the less important things, and then the small ordinary things. Each of these things are different to every person, yet they generally have the same tone. Many consider family, friends, health, career, and passions to be the most important things in their lives. It is these things that people define themselves and their lives with, and without which, they would be lost. Then there are the less important things: cars, houses, and ambitions, in short, the more materialistic things. Then the least significant things, the ordinary mundane tasks such as errands, bills, to-do lists, and day-to-day decisions such as what clothes to where, what food to buy, what to post on facebook, and so on. All of these things fill up our lives, just as a glass filled to the brim with water cannot accept one more drop, so too are our lives. Our lives are busy, complex, and circuitous, yet we must remember that the key to life is to balance of all of these aspects, and to remember and choose those that are truly important to us.
It is a choice; we choose what is important, what path we will follow, and how we will live our lives. Will we choose to do what is right for ourselves? Will we follow what we think is right, regardless of the ideas of others? Will we choose material fulfillment, and will we look outside of ourselves for happiness, for the answer? These are the questions which we face and which make up the modern dilemma. Our choice in this matter affects not only the present, but also the future: our social future. If our choice, if our answer, to these questions is correct, the way forward is seen. We are then clear-thinking and have sound judgment, which allows for cooperative social action that will bridge ideals and possibility. If our choice is incorrect, however, the path ahead is foggy and perilous and fraught with indecision. Thus, our choices will not only affect our future, but the future of our very society and culture. We are then trapped in the dilemma of which is right. We have the extraordinary power of decision making, which places the future directly in our hand and on our heads. To face this modern dilemma we are given the tools of conscience and consciousness so that we may be aware of others around us and aware of ourselves. We must be awake. We must live with our eyes open.
The meaning of life still looms as a question. To know ourselves, however, is the first task we must accomplish if we are to bring a purpose to our lives. When I say to know ourselves, I am speaking of a truly inmate knowledge of ourselves: our flaws, our failures, our joys, the reasons behind our emotions, our triggers, our past, our passions, and, in short, the very innermost workings of our mind, heart, and soul. This is a knowledge that can only be gained over a lifetime of self-examination. Before we can help others, we must know ourselves, else our compassion can become egotistic and based on our own self-worth, projecting our own feelings, shortcomings, and dreams on those we wish to help, therefore only inhibiting them farther.
As I have said, there are many ways to answer life’s questions, whether through religion, materialism, or science. These paths, however, do not hold all of the answers. Religion is a dangerous thing. Religion offers us beliefs, morals, ideals, and a way of life, all in one ready-made, easy to understand, and pre-wrapped package. It allows us to believe something without understanding it. It lets us accept someone else’s morals without considering our own, and it brings ideals and standards into our lives without our own personal discovery of them. In other words, religion has the possibility of allowing us to function as a so-called conscientious human being, without knowing or examining ourselves. The blind acceptance of religion results in a thoroughly un-examined person and an unchallenged state of pre-made morality and unconsciousness, which, as we all know, is no way to tackle the modern dilemma.
Materialism and science hardly offer any better solutions, as they too require very little self-awareness, and instead offer ideas, albeit widely accepted ideas and doctrine, which do not require any effort or thinking on the part of the individual. I am not saying that any of these ways to go about trying to understand the world and its ways are inherently bad, I am simply saying that we run into trouble when these paths allows us, no, give us an excuse, to avoid the difficult and painful, yet rewarding task of finding the meaning of life for ourselves.




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