“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” ~Oscar Wilde
There are now over eight billion people on the planet. We each have a different psychophysiological reaction to any given stimuli, no matter how minute the difference. From forks to forklifts, spoons to spoonerisms, folklore to philosophy. Every single one of us perceives everything differently.
The way I perceive the concept of something as simple as a tree is fundamentally different than the way every single other person perceives the “same” concept. This is due to our historically unique experiences with “trees.”
The memories we form influence our experience of perceiving trees. I may have fallen out of a tree and broken my arm. You may be blind and can only touch or smell a tree. I may have chopped down twenty trees to build a house. You may have crashed into a tree and totaled your car. The point is, every single historical interaction with a tree has formed a unique interpretation of “tree” in our psychophysiology.
The same thing applies to abstract concepts such as love, God, and philosophy. We each have historically unique experiences regarding these abstract concepts as well.
Which brings me to the point of this article: we should own up to the fact that we each have a devastatingly unique perception of all things, including philosophy. And rather than merely piggyback, kowtow, or place all our eggs into a single historical philosophy forsaking our individuality, we should make our individuality foremost and create our own philosophy out of the mulch, fodder, and compost of past philosophies.
We should double down on our uniqueness and fatten our individuality on the food of philosophies past.
Most people settle upon one established philosophy (religion, ideology, worldview), unaware that they have a unique perception of what that philosophy is. It is already the case that we perceive the concept of philosophy in a fundamentally different way than others do even within the same philosophy. Developing our own unique philosophy is simply becoming aware and honoring our unique perception.
It’s a matter of awareness and honor. Becoming aware of our unique perception of all things puts us into an existential pickle: We either admit it and honor it, or we deny it and dishonor it. If you choose the former, read on. If you choose the latter, not even the one-dimensional philosophy you lean on like a cripple can save you from yourself.
Here are five ways to discover yourself through your own philosophy…
1.) Practice self-inflicted philosophy:
“To go wrong in one’s own way is better than to go right in someone else’s.” ~Dostoevsky
What does it mean to inflict yourself with philosophy? It means being ruthless with your perception of reality. No excuses. No mercy. No self-pity. It means forcing your head over the edge of the abyss. No rose-colored glasses. No pie-in-the-sky delusions. No safety nets. Just you and the eternal darkness. Just you and the rawness of nihilism. Just you and the existential angst.
You’re faced with the bleeding-meat realness of reality, a snarling darkness puking up all things. It forces you into a vital confrontation, demanding you think rather than believe. Full-frontal, no punches pulled, it grabs you by the throat and asks you, point blank, “Are you ready to accept that everything you believed was a lie?”
Self-inflicted philosophy forces you to perceive reality with a clean slate. It gets down to brass tacks. It’s philosophy in action. It digs down to the roots of the human condition. It cuts deep into the pulsing blister of the mortal wound. It reveals the lodestone. It’s your ticket to staying ahead of the curve because it exposes how everything is on the curve. No exceptions.
As Marcus Aurelius said, “All that exists is the seed of what will emerge from it. You think the only seeds are the ones that make plants or children? Go deeper.”
2.) See the world from the shoulders of multiple giants:
“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” ~Isaac Newton
Don’t be afraid of becoming an autodidact. Read a lot. Connect the dots. Stay curious. Seek the shoulders of giants. Seek help, expertise, guidance, and wisdom from others. Become a sponge for higher knowledge. Soak it up. Ring it out. Repeat. Learn; unlearn; relearn.
Don’t cling. Never settle. Putting down roots on a giant’s shoulder is a death knell for your uniqueness. Jump! Take a leap of courage out of faith. Stay loose. Stay flexible. Create a scaffolding between giants. Keep your curiosity ahead of your certainty.
Don’t get caught up in the hype. Don’t allow their destiny to prevent your own. Rather, use their destiny to invigorate your own hero’s journey.
What does this mean? It means staying out of your own way. It means allowing for guideposts, other points of view, and a healthy sense of detachment. It means sojourning, not standing, on the shoulders of multiple giants to see further than they did. It means employing self-interrogation strategies as pivot points in order to better navigate the labyrinth of life.
When you sojourn on the shoulders of giants, you are effectively building a bridge to the Overman. You rise above the outdated past to embrace the updated future.
3.) Interrogate the knowledge:
“As anywhere else in the world, the unwritten law defeated the written one.” ~Herman Hesse
The flipside of sojourning on the shoulders of giants is the ability to be circumspect with the knowledge gained. To truly be original one must be able to “entertain a thought without accepting it (Plato).” This means you must take the knowledge gained and interrogate your perception of it lest you become stuck in a belief.
Human ingenuity, like human evolution, is a flowing process of change and mutation. The key to maintaining the process is to allow reimagination despite past imaginings.
The stale and outdated past must give way to a fresh and updated future. Otherwise, there is only stagnation, devaluation, and de-evolution. Therefore, you must have the wherewithal to question everything you’ve learned to the nth degree.
The best way to do this is to honor what validates Universal Law and discard what doesn’t. A deep enough interrogation of the knowledge you gained from sojourning on the shoulders of giants should reveal its validity in relation to the benchmark of health.
When you use health as a benchmark, you realize that health is not a matter of opinion. Rather, it is dictated by an indifferent universe with universal laws that apply to everyone, despite our interests, biases, opinions, or beliefs. And this applies to everyone not only physically, but mentally and spiritually as well.
But health will only get you so far. It can teach you moderation and temperance. But it won’t get you outside the box, the comfort zone, the domesticated bliss, the indoctrination, the cultural conditioning, or the dogmatic mental paradigm. Only audacity and courage can do that.
It doesn’t take courage to blindly follow the dictates of the giants who came before you (manmade laws), but it does take courage to question them (using universal laws). Be audacious. Be courageous. Interrogate your knowledge.
4.) Blend it all together with your unique soul-signature imagination:
“Your time is limited, don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” ~Steve Jobs
If given a choice between the path most travelled and the path least travelled, choose neither. Choose your own path instead.
Don’t fall into the trap of following someone else’s plan. Deconstruct, analyze, and scrutinize their plan, then improvise it. Infuse it with your own essence. Take the knowledge gained from standing on the shoulders of giants and run it through the sieve of your imagination. Customize your life to your own fitting.
Take this piece from this ideology and that piece from that ideology, but then connect it all to your own unique perspective. Be creative. Think outside the box. Push your culturally prescribed comfort zone as far as it will go. It’s all yours for the making.
You are a pivot with a point of view. You are a wave crashing onto the shores of eternity. You are a unique emergence from the universal interdependent spirit molecule. You are the cosmos becoming aware of itself. And you are vital for the progressive evolution of the interconnectedness of all things, whether you realize it or not.
Don’t let anything else lay your uniqueness low, whether spiritually or psychologically. This is your life. This is your story to tell. As Nietzsche said, “The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.”
Indeed. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of discovering yourself through your own philosophy. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of self-mastery.
5.) Recycle the mastery:
“To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, remove things every day.” ~Lao Tzu
When it’s all said and done, mastery is just as illusory is it is useful. Don’t allow it to kill your quest for truth. Let the life-death-rebirth process come alive inside you. Resurrect Beginner’s Mind. Keep the flow state flowing. Keep the fountainhead resonating. Keep the Truth Quest always ahead of the “truth.”
As Scott Adams said, “Awareness is about unlearning. It is the recognition that you don’t know as much as you thought you knew.”
For a true seeker there is no settled state, there is no final stage. There is always something more to learn. There is always an answer to question. Mastery is always recyclable. The journey is always the thing, or it is nothing. The sword is always sharpened dullness. The diamond is always pressurized coal. As James Hillman said, “the pearl is also always grit, an irritation as well as a luster.”
Mastery must be discarded on the funeral pyre of muscle memory lest it become the dogma that kills your journey. Feel the mastery, love it, relish being in awe and overwhelmed with gratitude for it. Then let it go. Surrender “mastery” to Cosmos. Practice detachment. When you’re attached to nothing, you’re connected to everything.
About the Author:
Gary Z McGee, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide-awake view of the modern world.
This article (How to Discover Yourself Through Your Own Philosophy) was originally created and published by Self-inflicted Philosophy and is printed here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Gary Z McGee and self-inflictedphilosophy.com. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this statement of copyright.