Friday, November 9, 2007

Know Thyself

“The world is but a canvas to the imagination.” --Henry David Thoreau

Years ago, during a stroll down Main Street, I remember spying a poster slapped on the side of a newspaper bin.

“You don’t grow old; you are old when you stop growing.”

Like a flaming arrow, that phrase lit up the dark night. I felt that spontaneous burst of agreement that most of us label “an epiphany.”

In the grind of daily living, we often forget what may be the essential purpose of life itself. We are here to Become Our Self. The process of Self-becoming is also a process of Self-discovery. Part of the process of discovery requires an acceptance of and awareness of how growth requires change.

“If in the last few years you haven't discarded a major opinion or acquired a new one, check your pulse. You may be dead.” ~Gelett Burgess

There are two kinds of conversations. One is where an individual espouses his or her views as FACT, and wants acknowledgement that those views are right. The other form of conversation is where an individual recognizes that views are merely opinions and exploring those opinions can lead to a greater understanding of life itself. A person’s beliefs can become as hardened as arteries. The “flow” is restricted and the subsequent pressure can lead to all sorts of maladies.

What happens is that we can forget that self-discovery is not a static condition. You don’t carve your Self out of rock and perceive the views of others as weather—to be endured and ignored. Self-discovery is a process of growth, where we prune and plant, encouraging the tender shoots and ripping out weeds as needed.

“There's a period of life when we swallow a knowledge of ourselves and it becomes either good or sour inside.” ~Pearl Bailey

Self-discovery brings as much pain as pleasure. No person can truly grow without acknowledging bitter truths. There’s no getting around this fact. However, there are a number of methods of avoidance, all of which most people have tried in the attempt. *smile* Avoidance, projection, denial.

I remember this great episode of Friends I watched long ago. The three women are laughing over a copy of Playboy they found. “Remember the good old days on the farm when we’d unbutton our blouse and lean backwards over a fence?” They’re giggling and having fun when Monica asks casually, “So if you were a guy, which one us would you date?”

Rachel answers immediately that she couldn’t choose, which Monica happily agrees with. But Phoebe says, “Rachel.”


Monica is incensed. She demands how Phoebe could say such a thing (translation… Why wasn’t I your choice?). In typical blunt fashion, Phoebe says that Monica is a bit of a control freak and Rachel’s more of a pushover. Yikes!

Monica is astonished and pissed. “Oh yeah? Well, we think you’re a flake.”

Now, Phoebe is in touch with herself enough to recognize, acknowledge and embrace her flaws as easily as her assets. She nods vigorously and agrees, “I am a flake. That’s true. And I’m okay with that.”

The girls are nonplussed. Monica then throws out, “Well, maybe I’m okay with being a control freak and Rachel’s okay with being a pushover. How about that?”

Phoebe, once again, doesn’t miss a beat. “Good for you!”

I love that episode. What great examples of psychology at work!

“We run away all the time to avoid coming face to face with ourselves.” --Author Unknown

It’s a scary business, this coming face to face with ourselves. Ah, but how liberating! The process of self-discovery is the ultimate creative act. We aren’t just brushing paint on a canvas, we’re Creating Ourselves. How awesome is that? The world is but a canvas to the imagination…

And we are the artists.

This is the last “daily” essay. I will, though, be posting the motivational essay I write for my chapter every Monday. And occasionally, I might post my thoughts when time permits. Thanks to everyone who’ve been so supportive! I hope you enjoyed reading my thoughts even a fraction as much as I’ve enjoyed sharing them.

--Chiron O’Keefe

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