The unexamined life is not worth living, Socrates said, famously.
I say the examined life can be hell.
But truth is, it’s the only way I can live. It ain’t for everyone, though, I know.
It takes relentless honesty and continual introspection.* Those things are not for the faint of heart.
Under the microscope
Any given interaction can be subject to microscopic inspection. What was that about? Was I too judgmental? Was my ego in the lead? Was I self-righteous? (probably)
I’m equally analytical about others. I can’t just notice people who are insistently clueless, especially if I know them. My stomach churns. I have to examine their role in my life, what I want their role to be, whether I can tolerate that alone and if I even want them in my life at all. Are they necessary?
I’m not very easy-going about this stuff.
Especially now, when there are so many who Just. Don’t. Get. It. I’d like to bless them and send them on their way–I aspire to it–but the truth is, I don’t always. I place them under microscopic examination. I do try to understand their world view and usually I can see it right away–but when it differs so greatly from mine keeping them in my life can be a challenge. And I can get scrappy about it, too.
It all matters to me
Someone mentions “patriotism” and immediately I test their view against nationalism (which these days, it usually is) and I can not abide nationalism. Big pickup trucks roaring down the street flying oversized American flags: nationalism, not patriotism. My country right or wrong? NO. Emphatically, no. Not patriotism.
We are not the country we aspire to be. But we can get there with relentless honestly and continual introspection. We have our flaws and we must recognize them and call them out so we can improve.
Most people who talk about patriotism today don’t know what it is. They forget why and how the country was founded. They’ve never read the Constitution. They think it’s about wearing flag pins. About “don’t tread on me” protests. It’s not.
I judge. I do. On macro and micro levels.
Micro. Or is it?
Someone fails to respond to an invitation or text and I wonder why such common courtesies are in short supply. Is it just today? Their generation? Them? Why does this piss me off so much? What does it say about me? Am I being too rigid? No, I don’t let myself off the hook, either. I judge myself, too.
The fact that I’m drawn inward may explain why isolation isn’t that hard for me. (except for the travel thing)
We are here to learn and grow. It’s the journey, not the destination. I’m still on the journey even now…and my efforts are always valiant. Dozens of my friends and acquaintances who have patiently helped me grow along the way can attest.
How we come in, how we grow up–these do not set our path in stone. We can always change.
I know, it would be easier to live and let live.
But I’ve never taken the easy road.
- (Thanks, Fia Skye, for “relentless honesty and continual introspection”)