who are you ?

photo by Rodney Smith

“Self-knowledge leads to wonder, and wonder to curiosity and investigation, so that nothing interests people more than people, even if only one’s own person. Every intelligent individual wants to know what makes him tick, and yet is fascinated and frustrated by the fact that oneself is the most difficult of all things to know.

The people we are tempted to call clods and boors are just those who seem to find nothing fascinating in being human; their humanity is incomplete, for it has never astonished them. There is also something incomplete about those who find nothing fascinating in being. You may say that this is a philosopher’s professional prejudice - that people are defective who lack a sense of the metaphysical. But anyone who thinks at all must be a philosopher - a good one or a bad one - because it is impossible to think without premises, without basic (and in this sense, metaphysical) assumptions about what is sensible, what is the good life, what is beauty, and what is pleasure. To hold such assumptions, consciously or unconsciously, is to philosophize.

I find it almost impossible to imagine a sensitive human being bereft of metaphysical wonder; a person who does not have that marvelous urge to ask a question that cannot be formulated.”

~by Alan Watts
from The Book on The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are



J Cosmo Newbery said...

The difference is in the depth.

But if you really want to have 'questions that cannot be formulated', spend an afternoon with a young child.

red dirt girl said...

Hahahahaaa .... You are so right, Cosmo. Actually, they don't have to be too young. My 12 year old can sit and pepper me with questions for HOURS!

And while I like the intent of this quote, I don't necessarily agree with its opening statement. I think 'wonder' leads to curiosity which leads to investigation which leads to self-knowledge and not the other way 'round.

Most of all I appreciate the thought that a person's basic assumptions about life and how to live it are their own 'metaphysical philosophy' ...


goatman said...

Now you have caused me to dig out my yellowdusty dog-grabbed falling-out pages with scents of long ago copy of "Cloud-Hidden Whereabouts Unknown" by Watts wherein he roams the hilly climes above Sausalito looking for enlightenment in the fog and if not actually finding it, at least talking alot about the possibility.
I seem to have marked: "For the more sensitive he is, the more he finds the very act of living in conflict with his moral conscience. Upon reflection a universe so arranged that there is no way of living except by destroying other lives seems to be a hideous mistake, not a divine but a devilish creation."

Its the thinking about thinking that does us in, else we just live for the moment --like my dog.

red dirt girl said...

Oh that's so interesting, goatman. Especially because psychotherapy has turned the corner and now advocates that to be happy, we all need to live in the moment rather than dredge up the past etc. etc. So perhaps Bear has the right idea - yes?

I do like that quote!! Much to consider in those words....hmmmm.

Now I'm thinking about thinking and this reminds me of something I read last night in a magazine. Oh yes, it's here in a short essay: How to Spend Time Alone

"There is privately alone, and then there is publicly alone. To be privately alone can be difficult, because wherever we go, there we are, yammering away at ourselves. 'Unless a person has a lot of psychological tools at her disposal, the mind is not a pleasant place to inhabit,' says Germer. 'We have evolved for survival, not happiness, and thus we have a natural tendency to focus on the negative.' When the brain is at rest, he adds, it tends to get busy revealing problems from the past and anticipating problems to come. Once we scanned for predators and poisons; now we fret over the unemployment stats and what our mother-in-law had the nerve to say at dinner.

Germer recommends mindfulness, a practice that sounds esoteric but simply means focusing on what's around you instead of the chatter in your head. When we pay attentions to our senses, he says, we can appreciate the color, the texture and the fragrance of a velvety red rose without thinking Roses. Valentine's Day. Why doesn't anyone send me flowers? Because I'm fundamentally unlovable, that's why!'

I have no idea who Germer is that is being quoted. When I think valentine's flowers, I think "My boyfriend doesn't like to give me things that are already in the process of dying. He'd rather give me a tree to plant than a bouquet of dying flowers. Which then leads me to: Well, actually, my boyfriend lives very far away from me so I won't be getting a plant. And he thinks Valentine's Day is rather silly. He loves me every day. But wait, my traitorous mind says, he's not with you, so yes, you are fundamentally fucked up and destined to live your life all alone.

So much for musing on roses!