Just finishing Joseph E. Davis: Chemically Imbalanced. Here is what he says:
“Movement toward a richer and more accurate understanding of ourselves involves our temporality (our memory and history) and the social and dialogical relations–with ourselves (internal conversation), with others, within a community and a tradition–that have helped make us who we are. Self-elaboration, in this view, is an ongoing ethical activity, an effort to see ourselves clearly, to gain a fuller picture of who we are, what moves us, and–critically–by what standards we live. And this elaboration can serve as a basis for the cultivating of sociality and solidarity with others.”
Don’t you love that term: Self-elaboration? It makes you stop and think. We are explaining ourselves all the time. To ourselves. To each other. How do we understand our actions, our feelings, our thoughts? Am I a good person? Selfish? Toxic? What happens when the outcomes don’t match my intentions? Am I fooling myself with too optimistic a picture, or perhaps too pessimistic a picture of who I am? How do I understand myself in my life? My choices? My personal projects? Can I be accurate?
Understanding ourselves and our world is a complex, difficult, and uncertain task. We can’t quite conquer it, and we can’t quite stop trying either. We live in the world as curious, active, seeking beings, making what we can of the life we’ve been given. Reality shifts, and so does our understanding of it. We can’t conquer it because it keeps changing. Just when we get the hang of making our lives work, everything is different.
This examined life, haphazard as it is, moves us toward a more nuanced and deeper relationship with ourselves, and that makes possible more real relationships with other people too. The profound experience of being deeply grounded in ourselves, of understanding our own complexity and intentions, of pursuing a life in line with what we care about brings us to a place of peace of mind, appreciation for the journey, and freedom to look at and know our own personal reality.