A confession...

True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.

Socrates

Wise words.  Words I often need to remind myself of.  Just when I think I have the answer, I find that I haven't even properly understood the question.  In line with the Socratic Paradox, the one sure thing I know is just how little I know. 

Reading through another recent thread (including my own comments on it) has prompted another round of self-questioning.  I argue a point, quite pig-headedly at times, because I see something that challenges my perception of things.  But is my perception the only valid one?  Aren't others just as valid?  I'm not talking about the relativity of truth here.  Rather, it's about being able to suspend judgment based on my own preconceived beliefs and ideas (which aren't, I admit, always founded on full knowledge), and to see if maybe the other point of view is valid; to see if I need to reconsider my position.  To see if I might actually be wrong.

The growth of the internet and social media has brought vast changes into our lives - positive and negative.  On the plus side, it enables us to have instant access to a whole world of information.  It enables us to make contact with people we'd never otherwise have gotten to know, and to experience (virtually) places we might never otherwise see.  The negatives hardly need mentioning: misinformation, bullying, identity theft, and so on.  And a big negative, for me, is the way in which it can lead to entrenchments of belief.  We have all this information at our fingertips - yet we tend to go to places that are congenial, and that support and validate our positions on things like politics or religious beliefs.  The social distance of it, too, makes it far easier to abuse those who don't agree with us.  We use language against others that we might never consider using if they were facing us, in person.  So we have the paradox of the internet: the access to huge amounts of information and knowledge - but less inclination, maybe, on our part to make use of it.  In some ways, of course, it's only human.  We're tribal.  We seek out our people, our 'gang', our fellow believers.  Because it gives us validation.  The internet, I think, can make it a lot easier to just stick in a safe zone.

I know some of you won't agree with this, but I see each of us as the product of so many things: genes, upbringing, education, social environment, our experiences out there in the world.  Our attitudes, beliefs and responses are shaped throughout our lives.  We have choices to make and many paths we can take - and nothing is predetermined for us.  Some may have a harder struggle than others, and some may succumb to the struggle.  But it isn't inevitable. And yes - life isn't always fair.  Some people just seem to breeze through and get everything that they want.  It wouldn't pay for us to all be the same, though.

Acceptance of this should really enable us to suspend judgment about others.  But it doesn't.  Not always, anyway.  I hate prejudice, and I can't stand it when people make assumptions about others based on little evidence.  And yet, I openly admit, I make judgments myself.  I think, if we're honest, we all do.  Again, it's a very human thing.  We might, for instance, see someone in the street and think to ourselves "What on earth possessed him/her to wear that?"  I'll see someone in a shop buying a particular tabloid newspaper, and the first thing that pops into my head is "I know where you're coming from and what your beliefs are."  But then, of course, they might just be buying that paper because they like the crossword.  They might be buying it for someone else.  They might even be buying it to line their cat's litter tray!  The point is... I'm very conscious of this aspect of myself.  I don't like it.  But I'm at least aware of it.  My favourite quote from Spinoza is: I have striven not to laugh at human actions, not to weep at them, nor to hate them - but to understand them.  I need to do a lot more of that striving to understand.

I don't subscribe to any religious belief, but if I did then it would be Buddhism.  The philosophical tenets of it make a lot of sense to me.  I like the idea that 'God' isn't some mysterious entity up in the sky, but is actually something that resides in each  of us.  I like the acceptance that we are all prone to human frailties: anger, jealousy, greed, lust, selfishness.  And if we can recognise these things in ourselves, and accept them, then we can begin the process of trying to overcome them: to work towards our own spiritual enlightenment - or 'Buddhahood'.  It's a long journey, and we're likely to have many detours and dead ends along the way.  We may never fully reach it.  As long as we retain that knowledge of ourselves, though.  I started that journey a long time ago, and I thought I was getting close to the end of it.  I realise now, though, that I still have a way to go yet.  The point is... I want to carry on.  I want to overcome these aspects of myself that I don't especially like.  I want to be more self-accepting (my knowledge of these negative aspects of myself is a part of that).  Part of getting there will be for me to step outside of that safe zone a bit more.  Accept some challenges.  Use any knowledge I gain to help me along the way.

Just as Socrates had the first word, he can also have the last:

The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.

 

  • I can relate to most of what you say here. As I recently said to someone else, on a forum full of people who struggle to see the world from other people’s perspective, misunderstandings are going to happen, it’s par for the course really. You’re not alone in the way you are, I think anyone with AS/ASD can quite easily get extremely passionate about a topic that they feel strongly about. You should see me when I have a point that I want to prove, I’m like a horse with a bit between its teeth, at that point in time I get complete tunnel vision, nothing else matters to me apart from proving the point that I am trying to prove. While it’s always good to strive for personal growth and development, also don’t feel bad or guilty about being you. 

  • He is also reported to have said, an unexamined life, is not worth living ~ and that’s what you’re doing. You’re examining your life. 

    I would say that step number one, is to begin to see these ‘negatives’ as simply neutral traits. It makes them easier to examine. 

    All the major religions are saying the same things and Jesus couldn’t be more like Buddha if he tried, and his teachings relate directly to kundalini yoga. He was a master. His message is not yet widely understood, but he didn’t say, he was the only way but that he was the way and that if you weren’t against him, you were with him. Meaning there are many roads to salvation or buddhadhood or whatever people like to call it but he has a way and if you follow it, you’ll get there, and you will. But we have other great masters and teachers and we all teach and learn from each other, and often, more so from each other. There are many ways because there are many people, and as you pointed out, we have all been influenced by our upbringings etc. So what appeals to one might not appeal to another. 

    But it’s the greatest journey of all and one that continues to get better and better and not despite of, but because of, our so called failures etc. 

  • Thats so true I always say, 'The more I know the more I realise I don't know.