Know Thyself (and get a second opinion)

By R. D. Flavin

2-8-2013

     Most of us are confronted with many choices every day.  The unfortunates, those with severe handicaps, the too young and the too old, usually can't make reasonable choices.  Even the incarcerated have limited choices, though ...that 'final' choice seems less of a right to exercise an ability to choose and more of an admission of a fatal dis-ability.  Ever since Classical times, that Apollonian Creed of “Know Thyself” has been repeated again and again (Gk. γνώθι σαυτόν).   I'd strongly suggest we all get a second opinion.

     Philosophers share much with comedians – sometimes it's the venue, but more often than not it's the material.  I've never had any use for Kierkegaard or Andy Kaufman, though both still have their respective followers.  Different strokes can please or kill or sometimes both.  Most folks simply don't know, they just guess.

     Science has studied animal and human behaviors for many years now, and while some gross generalities may be applied to certain majorities, individuality has always marginalized the center.  Normality is defined by extremism.  And we all know what happens when we attempt to assign a value of the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter.  Mom's apple pie recipe just ain't the same anymore...

     Tell me if you've heard this one before:  A guy walks up to a busy street intersection and there's this old lady standing there with her handbag loosely slung over her shoulder.  Now, the guy could pass the old lady by and cross the busy street and be on his way.  Or, the guy could knock the old lady down, grab her handbag, and run across the busy street.  However, if he so chose, he could politely help the old lady cross the busy street.  So many choices!  I've always followed a personal maxim that there's two types of people in this world – those who do what they can and those who do what they can get away with.  Okay, some of us are a little of both...   I'd probably help the old lady across the street ...and ask for a tip.  So much for humor; I guess I'll try philosophy next.

     What should one buy Philosophy on Valentine's Day?  A tabula rasa, of course.   If there's one thing that Wisdom really loves it's learning something new.  Oh, and a cool stylus or pen might be in order as well.

     Right.  The world is a restaurant with a menu sure to please most everyone.  Unless, of course, one isn't hungry, however there sure is some wonderful artwork on the 'walls' to admire while everyone else is eating.  Now, that menu has plenty of meat and seafood choices, and there's even a vegan section for those who have a problem with food that once had faces...  Did I mention the desserts?  And, yes, there are low-cal offerings for those worried that the world might pudge a little around its equator.  What's so great about the menu is you don't have to sample what doesn't suit you!  However, just because you may not like a selection doesn't mean that others share your tastes.  Everything on the menu is good and it's up to you to decide.  I prefer the Turkey Chili, but that's just me...

     We look into a mirror to see ourselves, but it's only a reflection.  A unique combination of glass and light that provides a suggestion of what others might see.  We always see ourselves differently than others see us.   That's one reason why it's good to get a second opinion.

     No one is perfect, though many (foolishly) spend their entire lives trying to be.  We remind ourselves that “To err is to be human,” yet nowhere is 'error' adequately defined.  Sure, we have laws that punish us when we violate them, we have the religious who threaten hocus-pocus if our behaviors don't fit some arcane and antiquated tradition, we have pundits and critics who are paid to disparage this and that, and then we have family and friends that we sometimes please and at other times disappoint.  If it's true that humans are merely an endless series of errors, how then are we to avoid mistakes?  We get a second opinion...

     I printed up some personal business cards today.  Usual stuff – website URL, name, address, and contact information.  For a description, I wrote: “Internet columnist, researcher, & all-around nice guy.”  Yeah, pretty much creamed corn...  When I went through a brief period as a playwright and actor in Chicago I always dreaded having to provide a short bio.  It seemed wrong.

     Few go it alone and most of them are jerks or worse.  Pres. Obama has his cabinet and advisers, sports coaches have their assistant coaches, celebrities have their personal trainers, and most writers have editors.  Honestly, where would Jesus have been without his disciples?  Okay, strike that last one...

     We should all do our best to know ourselves. “To thine own self be true” and all of that.  Self assessment and appraisal is expected.  Yet, like the illusion of a mirrored image, we need others.  We need to know ourselves and then get a second opinion.

Hoping for an editor,

Rick

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