γνῶθι σεαυτόν – Know Thyself

Two little words that were handed down from Ancient Greece, they’ve been used countless times since by the greatest thinkers of the ages. For some perhaps its a personal mantra,  a path followed through a lifetime, for others a journey never contemplated, for me its a journey I suspect that I have only truly begun of late.

I was listening to a Ted talk by Alan De Boton, he talked about the modern world in which we are programmed to see success as the goal. But by nature not everyone can be a success, to have winners you need losers, there is no other way. So where does that leave those that are not as successful as they aspire to be, they can only be losers, they’ve not reached their aims, well theres a clear result for the loser –  that if on a personal level we don’t achieve we become victims of low-self esteem. He talked about the industry of self-help books, the millions of books on bookshelves that are there to appeal to those with low self esteem. I have to admit I  have a pretty decent bookshelf of titles myself, change your life in seven days,the idea of that one appealed to me I must admit, seven days to be ok, these books one feels may help you change, move forward, move up. Have they for me, well at times I think I pick up some insight some ideas and thoughts that make a difference, but so far no eurekas.

I often think I am missing something, a golden key, that somewhere out there is just something simple and fundamental, some way of thinking, some practice, something so simple and perfect that were I just to find it then everything would fall into place, all would be perfect. I am often hugely critical of people that come over as purely concerned with the material, those people we all know who just for ever talk about the new car, the house they have bought, their new designer clothes, but there is no difference between me wanting my magic key and their feeling that fulfilment will come through owning things. It is the human condition, to want to feel good, we spend our lives looking for things that we believe will make us feel good, feel whole.

I know a  very sweet man Mr K, he’s probably a similar age to me, he comes from Ghana, Mr. K is not on some levels what you might call  a success, he cleans offices part time, he works in a  warehouse. He’s far from a financial success, but he is a father of boys, happily married, he is a man that always smiles, Joe has God and faith. Now faith in a higher power, true faith is a magic key if you have it, I don’t have it and for me it is not an answer, in a way I’m a little envious of the Joe’s of this world,  I would like to feel that way on a regular basis.

Sometimes when I’ve been really on a downer I’ve managed to tell myself that its ok don’t get stuck in this mindset, all things change, all is transient, and of course it is, gain becomes loss and loss becomes gain, joy becomes sadness and then joy will return, ultimately though the answer has to be know thyself and thats a journey of a lifetime if you choose it. It feels as though my journey recently has involved a lot of time at the bus stop, I hate waiting around for things, maybe i should take the tube, or get a bicycle, that way I’m in charge.

What I do have though is the conviction that it is all in the mind, I am constantly reminded of it in others,  I see those who faced with adversity or challenges go one of two ways, they either stress, get upset or go for the this is so unfair route, or shrug their shoulders and get on with life. Positivity brings rewards, Negativity brings bitterness. i don’t want to be a bitter man.

And understanding thyself? well i understand that we are all darned complicated beings but that ultimately we want simple things, that I’m not sure where my life is heading and that is fine, it must be.

Meanwhile I am still going to keep an eye out for that golden key, just in case. If you have one please let me know and I will get a duplicate cut.


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