Blog Archive

Contemplations About An Unexamined Life...

I think it's a harder life to be a knowing, studied individual than one simply skating through years without trying to be a little more than 98.6 degrees body temp and alive. It is a richer life to live deliberately. While there is bliss in ignorance... there is time to grow up, too. Bliss of childhood, being sheltered from life's evils, has an innocence and belief in magic that makes that stage of life so blessed and wondrous. We look into the eyes of our own children and smile at the cute things they do and say in their unknowing... and we are briefly brought back to simpler times.

And yet, there is great mystery in the world as we grow into adulthood and conquer the many worldly uglies... for all the times we've fallen flat on our ass, we had the choice to pick up and move onward or stay stuck a victim. It's always a choice.

I spent hours last night helping a family in distress... and they have a long road ahead to get their shit together... I don't have any magic for them... but to talk and to share is helpful. I came away with a sense of knowing that this family will endure, for they are examining their choices and making tough new ones and paying a price to save what's important in the face of foreclosure and financial issues, job loss, anxiety and legal strife. Last night, I was nothing more than a sounding board and a voice of clarity... not a counselor or some great wise one, but a helping hand... a listener. That simple.

It's so easy... it takes a little time, but we need to do some checks in life to make sure we are living the life we intended. Aside from our own life examination, we should help our friends or neighbors where appropriate when they get lost (and I do believe we ALL get lost sometimes). Why must this reaching out be so hard in an age of greed and anger? "Help thy brother," I often think... for if "I'm" feeling lost amid my many fortunate blessings, probably he/she is, too... Just get in there and HELP!

I thought I'd post some inspiring words I read this morning by another author....

Is the unexamined life worth living?

By Robert Gerzon

I've always been fascinated by Socrates' bold statement that "The unexamined life is not worth living."

He doesn't mince words. He doesn't say that the unexamined life is "less meaningful than it could be" or "one of many possible responses to human existence." He simply and clearly says it's not even worth living.

Why does he make such strong, unequivocal statement?

Socrates believed that the purpose of human life was personal and spiritual growth. We are unable to grow toward greater understanding of our true nature unless we take time to examine and reflect upon our life. As another philosopher, Santayana, observed, "He who does not remember the past is condemned to repeat it."

Examining our life reveals patterns of behavior. Deeper contemplation yields understanding of the subconscious programming, the powerful mental software that runs our life. Unless we become aware of these patterns, much of our life is unconscious repetition.

As a psychotherapist, I see so many tragic examples of the effect of an unexamined life. I remember Melissa, a sensitive, attractive woman in her late forties who realized that a series of repetitive, doomed-from-the-beginning relationships had used up so many years of her life that it was now too late for her to realize her dream of a husband, home and family of her own. I recall Donald, a caring, hard-working man who ignored his wife and family for too many years and found himself depressed and living alone in an apartment by the time he came to see me.

If only Melissa and Donald had taken the time to examine and reflect upon their lives as they were living them, they could have made changes and had a different experience during their lifetime.

The good news is that it is never too late to start examining our life more thoroughly -- and to reap the rewards. Melissa never had the child she wanted but she stopped recreating her past and eventually married a loving man who helped her heal her childhood wound of a father who deserted her. It was too late for Donald to get a second chance with his wife, but he was able to build strong relationships with his children.

We all have blind spots. Sometimes when I examine a chronic problem in my life, I have that unsettling feeling that I must be missing something, but I can't quite see what it is. We try to examine ourselves, but none of us can see our own back side (our "shadow").

That's why Socrates' method of self-examination included an essential element that became known as "Socratic" dialogue. Dialoguing with a close friend, a spouse, a skilled psychotherapist or spiritual adviser helps reveal those blind spots we cannot see by ourselves.

Our society discourages self-awareness with a weekly cycle of working and consuming that keeps us too busy to slow down for self-reflection. Consumer capitalism's game plan prefers an unaware and vaguely dissatisfied populace that tries to fill the emptiness inside with shiny new products.

It's a radical act to stop and contemplate your life. But according to Socrates, it's the only game that really matters.


Roger D. Curry said...

You were more than that, Doreen - you were, and are, sage and healer.


Jilly said...

"I don't have any magic for them... "

You know, I say this often when working with my special ed kids at school. I don't have a wand to wave and viola they're "all better" (whatever that is). In the end, it's all about hard work and fighting for something better.

it's sad, but some days, i feel so much better about any dysfunction in my life when i see what these kids put up with.


Anonymous said...