Ben (arkasis) wrote in wabi_sabi_life,

Dogma vs inquiry

As I have observed in my life, there seem to be two methods we have for dealing with the divide between our selves, that is the reality of who we are, and that which we imagine/hope/aspire/ought to be. 
It seems hard enough to truly see ourselves to begin with. What is it that we would be looking for, exactly? For most everybody, what we are is self-evident, that is, we do not question it, we take it as given, even though this 'given' essentially has no real content. We are content with this, or rather, it seems to go unnoticed as a potential source of reconciliation, so we do nothing about it. 
Two methods then. On the one hand we try to find out who we are through some engagement with something external to us, something other than we are, so that we can learn what we are capable of and/or define ourselves in terms of this thing we learn/acquire. On the other, we take as given other peoples' opinions of us, expressed in momentary form, but then lasting in our minds as something substantial. 
In the latter case, one is taking oneself as a delivered dogma, in the other one is an inquiry into who one is. Accepted cultural wisdom these days is that the latter is unhealthy while the former is healthy. The more we learn how to do, the more we do, the more we are. Or so the common equation goes. 
Now, what does this have to do with the theme of this community? 
Glad you asked. 
When we take accepted opinion of ourselves as something lasting that defines us, which is entirely our choice, so this is really a form of self-definition, we hold ourselves to a standard of being that often places us in relation to others, or the ever-present imagined perfection, the ideal. This ideal changes just as the seasons do. We call it evolution, as if there were sometime in the future when human beings will stop doing this sort of thing, as if the Ideal had a final form/being. 
When we try to go it alone and inquire into who we are based on what we can accomplish and do, and define ourselves in terms of those things, we are again holding ourselves to a standard. The standard this time is aesthetic or ethical usually. Still, we are looking at our selves, looking at the Ideal, and comparing the two somehow based on some criteria or other. 
Much of life is a mixture of the two modes. These two forms of self-definition form a complicated structure of our being, all of it, I might add, based on thought and feelings, and not so much on actual experience. 
As a way of trying to break this, because we end up quite dissatisfied with ourselves in the end, most of the time ( we have our triumphs, don't get me wrong; but the main function these modes of being have is to reinforce our sense of separation from our lives, which is alienating and yada yada....Sartre and Camus wrote those books.)

Is it, however, necessary to hold oneself to a standard? If so, then why? If not, then is it also necessary to define oneself in any terms at all?

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