Weekly Self-inflictions #4: The Self (Transcript)

“This inner world is truly infinite, in no way poorer than the outer one. Man lives in two worlds.” ~Carl Jung

The inscription at the Temple of Delphi “know thyself” is ultimately unattainable. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to attain it. Enlightenment is equally unattainable, but there’s nothing wrong with striving toward it. Self-improvement is healthy regardless of the fact that we will never be perfect. Socrates’ dictum still stands: “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

Examining our life will always begin with our own interpretation of it. So, it behooves us to align our interpretation with reality. This is easier said than done. Because examining the self is a complex proposition. The self is a Trick Mirror. It’s an elusive mystery.

Indeed. The self is masks all the way down perceiving delusions all the way up. Stop for a moment and wrap your head around that concept…

Even our masks wear masks. How could it not be? We are fallible beings perceiving an infinite reality using finite faculties. How could the Self not be a shattered mirror? Each shard with its own unique perspective. Each shard with its own fascinating contradiction. Each shard an aspect of a greater whole of which it is only somewhat aware.

The self is a deliciously complex thing, multilayered and easily tricked into donning false armor. The self is smoke and mirrors, masks and mayhem. More akin to a chaotic theater of actors than a single actor.

Therefore, we need a strategy for navigating through the minefield that is our mind field. Self-interrogation is that strategy.

Self-interrogation is a ruthless form of questioning that is the epitome of self-inflicted philosophy. It’s a dialectic cross-examination of our current disposition or worldview. It’s a penetrating revelation into what’s culturally conditioned, and what’s not. What’s influenced by political and religious propaganda, and what’s not. What’s able to stand on its own against an indifferent universe, and what’s not.

Tough cookie to crack. Difficult knot to untie. A challenging circle to square. And that’s why self-questioning must be ruthless. It must be an interrogation. It must be self-inflicted, despite ourselves and our worldview. We must force ourselves into a state of radical curiosity, otherwise we lose the underlying essence, and we fall behind the curve.

The self must be interrogated to remain free. It must be brutally questioned. It must be unlayered, unfolded, and unbound. It must not be allowed to atrophy, to stagnate, to rest upon its laurels, or to revel in its certitude. For the self is the pivot of the universe. The perception of which affects the human understanding of Truth.

There is no fixed self. We cannot know all our masks, just as we cannot know all of our delusions. So as not to get stuck within any particular mask or delusion, we must keep aware of our own fallibility, hypocrisy, and naïveté. This will keep us open and flexible, and better able to adapt and overcome the vicissitudes of life.