One Idea for Life Betterment

Despite advances made by civilization, science and technology a majority of the world's populace continue to share a common sentiment about life: It is hard. Part of the reason for this near universal agreement, it seems, rests within the complexity of human nature. We are incompetent in our ability to narrow in on our needs. At one moment, for instance, we might want a car, and in the next moment realize what we really want is a hug, and in a following moment become frustrated by our inability to choose between our wants with effectiveness and ease. Simplifying the complexity of our nature may seem the probable solution to dealing with this challenge of living life. However, a better alternative rests in a bit of knowledge left to us by a 2,400 years old philosopher. One in which the communion found between a pen and a plain piece of paper offers route to gaining meaning and fulfillment.

Athenian Philosopher, Plato, lived 2,400 years ago. Through the influence of his teacher Socrates, he left us an idea philosophers today consider the most important philosophical idea ever produced. An idea captured in these two words: Know thyself.

It rings with oddity. Every living person inhabits singular vessels within which they spend all their lives. However it was Plato's great insight that this mattered little. He knew each of us were prone to moments of madness; each of us possessed tendencies to latch on to bits of existence toxic to engaging our essence of self. We could be at the mercy of envy from latching on to the success of a colleague. We could be pulled into deep resentment from off remarks of our peers. We could become caricatures of ourselves in the presence of those at the heart of our lust. A collective observation Plato came to highlight about people, having interacted with lots of them and watching Socrates be killed at their mercy, was this: People are driven by impulses, and this can have dangerous consequences. The solution, Plato proposed, was for each of us to dedicate ourselves to the activity of thinking. Subject the contents of our minds to examination and cross examination. This provided us momentary escapes to elevated states of consciousness and developed within us sufficient self-knowledge indispensable to navigating life.

When we imagine the activity of thinking the image in our minds often projects a person staring curiously into empty space. However, the full potential of engaging in thinking is derived when we accord a bit more activeness and deliberateness to the practice. Writing offers the perfect medium. In truth, any medium where the facilitation of observation, documentation and reflection is enabled serves this purpose. (It rests in our power to pick the medium which resonates with us. ) We can engage in any of the host of activities residing within the all-encompassing spectrum of keeping a journal. In praise of this elixir of activities, Ron Klug writes:
"A journal is a tool for self-discovery, an aid to concentration, a mirror for the soul, a place to generate and capture ideas, a safety valve for the emotions, a training ground for the writer, a good friend and a confidant."
A journal offers the perfect space where we can engage our truest selves. The problem of life isn't so much that it is hard, it is that we exaggerate its difficulty; we misrepresent our place in it and put the challenges life throws our way at the forefront of our minds, allowing our abilities, our talents and our ideas of how we might overcome them recede into the background. A journal lifts the valuables and places them in focus. It reminds us of who we are when we go astray, keeping our place in the world within perspective. It brings to light bits of self and existence that would, without it, remain hidden to us. 

It may seem improbable: that the simple communion between a pen and a plain piece of paper would tame the complexity of human nature. But to reason in this line is to miss the point. The goal isn't to tame our complexity, it rests in how adept we are at accounting for it. 

2017 may be the newest thing in our lives but it would serve us well to take into it an idea as old as the dawn of civilization, to wield a tool the fields of science and technology cannot exist without. Take comfort to the challenge of living with the practice of joining a pen and a plain piece of paper.

Happy New Year.


Post Author: P. W. Uduk 

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