Tuesday, December 26, 2017

How well do you know yourself?

Socrates said, "An unexamined life is not worth living." This statement implies that happiness requires self knowledge. How well do any of us know ourselves, really?

Ask yourself or another person, "What makes you tick?" We are startled and get anxious and then confused and then perplexed and then stumble towards some sort of half baked answer.

People, in the United States, debate endlessly about what is wrong with our school system. There are two major answers.

First, the purpose of human life is happiness. All people want to be happy. The follow-up question, of course, is, what will make us happy? Schools do very little, if anything, to help students figure this out. This question is the basis of moral philosophy and very few if any public schools offer a course in moral philosophy. Our schools teach math, science, history, English, foreign languages, physical education, and health. Recent surveys have found that over 50% of high school students in the U.S. say that their courses are irrelevant. Maybe students are dissatisfied with their schooling because the most basic topic is ignored or avoided.

The second major question is whether people are encouraged to lead examined lives so they can increasingly develop self-knowledge? This takes a vocabulary to identify thoughts, feelings, and behavior that motivate and describe our functioning. In public education this is called "social emotional learning" and there is some focus and effort to educate students. However, this focus and effort is inconsistent and controversial. After schooling, people are left to reflect and learn on their own unless they get into a church, 12 step programs, psychotherapy, or committed relationships that last several years.

Failures in self knowledge lead to disastrous results for individuals and groups. Human beings are notoriously inaccurate in the assessment of their own functioning. In psychology this is known as "denial" and the Dunning-Kruger effect.

Accurate self-knowledge is the major component of what psychologists call "emotional intelligence." It also is a sign of spiritual maturity. Notes On The Spiritual Life strives to provide its readers with the vocabulary, values, and skills to enhance their spiritual life and the spiritual lives of those they are in relationship with and influence.

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