As a result of our study and contemplation, we came to adequately value the Socratic admonition, “Know thyself.” The ancient Greek philosopher’s seemingly simple words, in reality, are so profound in their eternally edifying meaning, that any person, however contemplative, would be extremely challenged to recite all of its instructive implications.
Many centuries after the age of Socrates, a brilliant English philosopher, John Locke, famously and valuably, articulated to mankind his fundamentally empirical, “tabula rasa” declaration, viz., that man is born with a blank slate, and that all knowledge is acquired by experience. As we see it, this declaration would appear to chart the rationally exclusive route to the implementation of the valuable Socratic advice.
As ardent followers of Locke’s “empirical school” of epistemology and of the quoted Socratic admonition, we have been enabled by such principled guidance, to acquire and to cherish certain personally useful, lifetime principles, inclusive of those set forth below, [which may coincide with the reader’s own thoughtful conclusions or perorations.]
[A] Internal life. The ultimate mechanism, enabling any useful understanding of life is the phenomenon of self- perception, identified in many of our writings as, “the lifelong conversation with oneself.” Continuing, self- awareness and efforts to achieve personal self-identification is existentially necessary, to the Socratic aspiration to know oneself. A continuous, internal audit of one’s actions and words, referable to his conceived persona, is the objective source of his self-identity. Candor is vitally essential, in any personal comparison between one’s avowed morality and his actual behavior. The practice of punishments for bad behavior and rewards for good acts, is of minuscule value, in comparison with a candid personal analysis, founded on the maintenance of an objectively conceived moral self-image.
Occasional moments of contemplative self- analysis constitute valuable time in the maintenance of a desired persona.
[B] Nuanced aptitudes. It is of essential importance to the maintenance of our identity and self-esteem, to be aware that there are specific innate strengths and weaknesses which factually vary among individuals. The expectation that one is universally skilled, and capable in every area or study discipline, is an indication of inexperience and a predictable invitation to frustration and disappointment. The untimely discovery that aptitudes do vary can lead to unnecessary incidents of failure and loss of self-esteem. Additionally, the comparison with others’ strengths is useless, unrealistic and self-defeating.
One should, rationally and positively, define himself by his strengths, and not by his innate weaknesses.
[C] Stress Management. The phenomenon of stress i.e., the emotional reaction to certain stimuli, is innate and natural. This reaction, deemed vital to the survival of early homo sapiens, is today present in personal reactions to stimuli, for example, to unsettling thoughts about aging, extremely bad weather, personal threats, bad news, danger (real or perceived), personal challenges, loss, disappointment and perceived failures. The common occurrence and discomfort of anxiety is universal, and we are medically advised, deleterious to health. However, such unhealthy and uncomfortable reaction, can be managed and at times, mitigated with the employment of reason and experienced perception.
It should be borne in mind that the empirical occasions (stimuli) exciting the reaction of stress are endless in nature and varied in emotional significance. Certainly, the loss of an ordinary object, such as an inexpensive pin is not comparable to the death of a loved pet, or worse, a dire medical diagnosis. Yet, there are personalities who will spontaneously exhibit, their most extreme reactions to stimuli of any nature. Far healthier are those with mature perception, who suit, or calibrate, their response to the objective significance of the stimulus. It is additionally possible, that in cases of observed overreaction to a particular stimulus, that there is the underlying existence of an unrelated, disturbing, pre-existing stressor.
Learning to tailor the appropriate extent of stress to the objective degree of gravity of a presenting stimulus, may lead to an easier and healthier life.
[D] Independent determination. Individuals who, in addition to attending to relevant responsibilities of family and society, have applied reasonable periods of time to contemplation and self -advancement, are predictably includable among those with sufficient confidence and the efficacy of independent thought. The factors of adequate education and sufficient experience are essentially indispensable to such facility. Those who read good literature, travel when possible, and pursue an appreciation for the arts and sciences, are least likely to rely upon gossip, group think (tribalism) and common aphorism. Such enlightened people live a more meaningful, in depth and more satisfying life and constitute the most valued and useful citizens of a Democratic Republic.
Nevertheless, individuals who have achieved satisfaction from the felt determination of appropriate conclusions, should attend, fairly and constructively, to the views of respected others, regardless of their points of view.
[E] Success and happiness. Assuming the gift of reasonably good health, aspirations for essential happiness and rational success, are as closely related as identical twins, who may be mistaken one for the other. Unfortunately, there are a great many who comprehend success as the substantial acquisition of assets and the immense accumulation of money and property. However, life as revealed from time to time in the media, and demonstrated by experience, material success, alone, does not portend happiness. There are all too many accounts of dependent drug use and even suicide, among many of the publically celebrated rich.
But, if fame and acquisition of expensive homes, boats and other assets, are not the necessary markers of success and happiness, what is? Stated empirically, the criteria for success and happiness, empirically must be otherwise, since there do exist happy and also, unhappy rich and famous, as well as happy, successful and unsung people of relatively modest means.
It is inarguable, that not everyone begins at the same starting position, and that those born to families of great wealth and influence, ipso facto, have far greater future opportunities for material success than do others, not so fortuitously born. What is essential in choosing a goal, is a realistic and practical assessment of the situational cards which one is dealt, and a practical consideration of the possibilities of future material success. While a grand and glorious financial future may have some possibility in any life situation, the selection of aspirations ought, wisely be tempered with realistic and empirical considerations.
Success, in our experience, is not assured by the quantity, however impressive, of visible or ostentatious assets. Consistent with our experience and understanding, life’s precious essentials, love, security, morality and image, the elements of success and consequent happiness, are distinctively internal. True success is the attainment of the feeling of accomplishment and the priceless sense of fundamental self-fulfillment. In such determination, a determinative comparison between one’s starting point and one’s attainment, is a most rational consideration.
Beyond any conceivable criterion, an individual’s realization of being infortuitous possession of the unique franchise of life, is his ultimate success and prime occasion for rational happiness.
** ADDENDUM: We would certainly not presume to be the possessors of the answers to the eternal human questions, and would respectfully request that the foregoing writing, be perceived as simply based upon our own best understanding, which we hoped might be interesting reading.