Know Thyself

“Know thyself”  – Socrates

Is this an attainable goal?
Is it a constant process until the sweet release of death?

The moment you reach a place where you feel you have attained the goal, is usually a precursor to a great upheaval in one’s life in which everything you though you knew about yourself is brought into question.  Or so it has been in my life.

Death is the end of knowing thyself, unless you believe in an afterlife.
Is birth then the beginning of knowing thyself, conception?

Is this quote merely a guide, advice which will help you in the journey of life?  No one is capable of knowing thyself in relation to all other things, as there is, at least practically speaking, an infinite array of non-self to know.

I will start with those things of myself that do not change.   Yet given enough time isn’t everything about me in flux?  If I take a snapshot of my life over the course of 100 years is there anything that will have remained the same?  Let’s say I die at age 100.  What will there be of me, that has not changed from the moment of birth until my death?  My appearance will have drastically changed.  Everything physical about me will be different, except for a few things that can not be seen by the naked eye.  My DNA will not change; my blood type will not change.  As far as I understand, DNA and blood type are the only characteristics from a human being that does not change from birth to death.  These constants are found only on the molecular level.

So are my DNA and my O- blood type the substance of my being?
Is everything else an accidental property of my being?

My hair comes and goes, just as my weight.  My skin is new every seven years, etc, etc.

Does DNA affect personality traits?

Alcoholism is genetic.  Depression, anxiety disorders, and many other mental health disorders are genetic.  Are these considered parts of ones personality?  If so, can’t you go back to DNA to account for this?

So certain personality traits are inherent to me.  I have and will always deal with depression.  I have learned over the years the symptoms and consequences of my particular genetic ailment, and I can choose to handle it in a number of different ways, but there is no escape from my inherent tendency towards depression.

So who am I?

My DNA makes me homo-sapien, this DNA also provides me with a tendency towards depression.  My blood type is O negative.  Is everything else about me a choice, or brought into being by chance.  I would say I’m lazy but is this just a characteristic that I have accepted about myself and so I choose not to change.  Has this characteristic been reinforced over the years and so it is the easiest path, a rut that I choose to live in, a pathway that I choose to take with my behavior.

If everything about me is open to change or chance, except for my DNA, blood type and depressive tendencies, does this make me feel free or is it overwhelming?

Any further statements I make in regards to who I am, they are merely choice I make about myself…  How far does DNA affect personality traits and behavior?   How far do external circumstances affect who I am and how I behave?

I awake in the morning and anything is possible, yet decisions I made yesterday and the day before lay out a path for me to follow today.  So the past affects the present and the future.

Is the point of knowing thyself just self awareness?
The more aware of who you are the better you can understand the obstacles and challenges that must be dealt with in order to be who you want to be.  The old saying goes if you don’t know the past you are doomed to repeat it.

The more I know myself, or at least the actions of my past, my desires for the future and my attributes of the present, the better equipped I am to attain tomorrow and the next day what I am longing for today.

“Decide what to be and go be it.”  – The Avett Brothers.
These lyrics have struck a chord with me and have remained lingering in my mind since first I hard them a few months ago.  This sentiment, while I find inspirational, is predicated on already possessing a means of procuring food and shelter, or having a stability of survival.  Deciding what to be is inherently a choice, which is only present when the basic needs of physical existence are already stable.

In situations such as an earthquake or hurricane, people are brought into situations where the basic foundations of society and survival are no longer present.  The mere survival and non expiation of human life is not assured.  Many a time, I have heard people talk about situations like this as when you “find out who you truly are.”

Is who I am based on how I respond in calamitous and stressful events?  Do I need to go to war or run into a burning building to know who I am truly, at heart, at the depths of it all?  Do I need to face death in order to know who I am in life?  Is this just an example of who I am in the most dire of circumstances?  If I am rarely if ever in these type of circumstances, does how I react really show who I am?

Does life have no meaning without death?

As always questions upon question arises in my mind with no answer in sight.

Do I enjoy the endless stream of questions because it is easier to ask than to answer?  Do I have a choice to try and answer these questions, but I continue to only ask them because that is the easy path I have trod oh these many years?

Know thyself…
I don’t know myself…

Is the goal the constant quest?

Author: Brandon Fischer

University of Texas graduate and beer lover.

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