“The unexamined life is not worth living for a human being.”
May 18, 2019
These days it seems that not a moment goes by without someone having some sort of disagreement.
Not that people should always agree about everything, that’s not the point. Disagreements come in all shapes and forms, just like people do. The point is that many of these disagreements you see, whether in person, or online, stem from a certain section of the populace’s ceaseless push to inculcate their beliefs on others, regardless of the consequences.
There seems to be two prevailing schools of thought out there regarding how to handle these situations. When aiding others in their search for truth, the initial school of thought, the non-conformists, don’t mind when other individuals ask them questions about beliefs and ideas discussed. The second group, the conformists, take downright offense to anyone questioning them on anything. The former seeks to help the individual arrive at their own truth; the latter seeks to be the high priest, just like those of ancient times who controlled the free flow of specific information.
This particular trend of individuals not wanting to have open discussions seems to be growing with time. Individuals who do wish to carry out further inquiry to seek firmer ground have nigh no options when speaking to closed-minded conformists because ultimately with a conformist, it’s their way or the highway. Ironically, what is happening to those who seek firmer ground is not unlike what happened to the “Father of Philosophy,” Socrates, over two millennia ago.
Socrates was feared because he wasn’t afraid of questioning an individual’s beliefs about any given subject, similar to individuals today who question the official narrative on countless issues. In parallel fashion to modern conformists, in Socrates’ time, the ultimate conformists of the time – as with much of history – was the state. This see saw bout of ideals that took place millennia ago still takes place now. That said, because of his very ideals, Socrates is the Godfather of Non-conformity. Socrates is the living definition of a question mark.
With the Socratic Method – of querying deeply into the subject – Socrates would begin to dissect an individual’s paradigm and those inherent flaws if any, usually in the realms of justice and goodness. Because of Socrates’ method, many times the paradigms individuals had – inculcated by the state and by religion – would drastically shift or disintegrate altogether, and begin something anew. This lead the state to lash out against him for questioning the system, particularly the “might makes right” the state was notorious known for, and eventually got him executed.
The state feared that the changes Socrates was bringing about in the populace would continue to spread and from their tyrannical point of view they could not allow that. Thankfully though, most of what he was able to accomplish still echoes to this day – even to this very post, thousands of years later.
In similar fashion, nowadays, people who push conformity are doing themselves and the other individuals a great disservice. This is because individuals pushing conformity are: (1) not being open minded, thus contemplating life from an incredibly narrow point of view, which (2) stunts the growth an individual may have by the exposure of a wide array of information. Further, (3) by attempting to force conformity on others, conformists are taking away a terrific learning opportunity from the individuals truly seeking answers to poignant questions, and (4) in the worst case, these conformists are even losing relationships through all social strata because they are not being open minded about the possibility that other options exist. All of this stands against the very nature of free-flowing inquiry.
Keen conversations of proactive mental discernment should have a certain flow, like a see saw, a back and forth between minds. However, what is taking place is far from such a common sense and proactive approach. The talks that are taking place currently between conformists and non-conformists echo a societal instability brought about by the conformist that will only exacerbate with time.
Intricately, this particular issue is touched upon in the thought-provoking book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, by Shunryu Suzuki, who cautions individuals on this very subject:
“Try not to force your idea on someone but rather think about it with him. If you feel you have won the discussion, that is also the wrong attitude. Try not to win in the argument; just listen to it; but it is also wrong to behave as if you had lost. Usually when we say something, we are apt to try to sell our teaching or force our idea.”[Bold & Underline Emphasis Added].
In other words, allow others the freedom to make choices, to find their own path – to make mistakes. That is one of the best ways individuals grow, by learning from their choices. However, forcing opinions and/or beliefs on others is diametrically opposed to all that is good and sensible.
Moreover, not only is overriding someone’s freedoms rather inhuman, or conformist to say the least, but it goes directly against the very idea of Freedom and its downright tyrannical. In contrast, if conformists would opt to listen to others, as happens in free-flowing conversations of open-minded individuals, those pushing their beliefs and agendas would come to an understanding as to why the other individual feels reticent to the particular issue. That simple step can help magnitudes in understanding where another person is coming from and why the other person feels as they feel. A conformist’s conversations never even get that far. Ironically, that would arguably be the place where the most progress could be made.
If inquiring individuals who wish to engage in mental discernment are not allowed their own personal moment of clarity of piercing through the veil, they will not own the moment – know the truth – but merely borrow another person’s footsteps as their own. Such an instance robs the individuals of making great progress in their strides for the truth, and thus leaves them at square one.
When someone is forced to intellectually conform they are not allowed the freedom to philosophize – to seek wisdom. Philosophy is crucial, for it literally means the love of wisdom. How is an individual ever going to gain insights, journey to wisdom, unless they are allowed or even urged to ask questions?
As modern philosopher Peter Kreeft Ph.D. warned in his Philosophy 101 By Socrates:
“If we do not philosophize, if we do not question appearances, if we are satisfied with whatever makes us feel happy, we will never know whether we are being deceived about who we are and what level of our being is being satisfied.”[Bold & Italics Emphasis Added].
An individual that is not allowed to hone their senses and polish their intuition will not have the opportunity to learn to see the forest for the trees. If said individual merely accepts the authoritarian conformist’s attitudes, they will suffer in many ways. These inquiring individuals will have a harder time – or nigh impossible time – figuring out deception, as we are seeing nowadays; these individuals won’t be able to figure out a well constructed argument based on facts and logic from outright speculation or downright lies; these genuinely curious individuals will also not be able to become as robust and intellectually self-sufficient as possible as they could be in this newfound age of disinformation. Such an individual will be just like a boat in the ocean with a damaged sail that is drifting aimlessly directly into an eternal storm confusion.
That is why it’s imperative as individuals to help others realize their full potential as they seek truth and growth within our world. As other individuals grow, they will share what made them change in positive fashion. And as we learn from them we can integrate these lessons and help others just as so. This type of concurrent growth is not unlike the rising tide lifting all ships.
Ruminating a bit deeper into this entire conundrum, maybe this issue is about more than truth though. Perhaps there’s more on the line than meets the eye. What seems to be missing to some extent, in some individuals at least, is simply the ability for them to be caring human beings, regardless of beliefs. A truly caring, wholesome individual will not simply railroad someone else because they believe something different or refuse to believe them.
It seems that following a personal philosophy of seeking personal growth through an attempted mastery of your mental and spiritual wellbeing seems like a prudent choice to say the least. And personal growth involves more than just attaining truth or strengthening beliefs.
Observing the words of Kreeft once more:
“Wisdom is more than knowledge. Knowing all facts in a library does not make you wise. Wisdom is a knowledge not just of facts but of values, of what is humanly important; and it is a knowledge that is a lived, that is learned by experience and lived out in experience.”[Bold & Italics Emphasis Added]
When conformists push their ideals and beliefs onto inquiring individuals, they take away the opportunity for those individuals to have meaningful experiences for growth and self-development, which includes more than simple truths or beliefs. Those instances may never take place again. Individuals that are not allowed to live to their fullest extent will only realize a fraction of the capability they would otherwise be able to achieve if they were allowed to venture upon their personal road less traveled – their individual journey.
Those who are allowed to gain personal insights on their road to self mastery will not only grow profoundly but will also develop a more robust Socratic Philosophy, just like the Greeks did in ancient times.
In ancient times:
“The Greeks became the world’s greatest philosophers partly because…they learned to question appearances to find something more, some hidden reality behind the appearances.”[Bold Emphasis Added]
Such is the reason why appearances, beliefs and supposed facts must always be questioned. For if they are not, what might be hidden will never rise to the surface and will not be able to be seen in pure darkness. Truth is the only light beam that disintegrates the shadows. And the only way to attain truth is for individuals to hone their inner fire, their inner light.
Touching upon this very concern, award winning teacher, advocate of self-directed learning and of individual freedom, John Taylor Gatto urged in his landmark book Dumbing Us Down:
“People have to be allowed to make their own mistakes or to try again, or they will never master themselves, although they may well seem to be competent when they have in fact only memorized or imitated someone else’s performance. Success in my practice involves challenging many comfortable assumptions about what is worth learning and out of what material a good life is fashioned.”[Bold, Underline & Italics Emphasis Added]
Questioning our conformable assumptions, our beliefs, about what is worth learning for each individual and bringing about the most growth is what this entire conundrum is about. That is why it is crucial that:
“One should not present others with ready-made answers, preach to them, or only make them memorize things. One needs to activate them. They should figure things out. The ambition can even be to liberate them.”[Bold, Underline & Italics Emphasis Added].
To help individuals achieve total freedom – physically, spiritually, psychologically, emotionally and mentally – they need to be encouraged to walk their own path, learn their own lessons – find their own wisdom.
If individuals aren’t allowed to grow, or choose not to, their mental faculties will atrophy, like someone who uses crutches constantly and has their muscles atrophy from disuse.
As friends, colleagues, or simply caring human beings, perhaps it is imperative not to worry only about our subjective ideas, beliefs, or even outright facts. Not saying those are not important, so please do not misunderstand me.
All I am getting at is that, perhaps, what the vanguard consideration should be is helping other individuals wherever they may need help along their road, so they can then better understand whatever it is that they seek knowledge in. What got them to their current point in life is vastly different to what got you to yours. In like fashion, what gets them to the truth will most likely be vastly different than what got you to it.
Allowing other individuals the opportunity for growth, by not making them conform, is one of the greatest gifts we can help flourish in another human being on their journey. Along this journey, other individuals may at times need help. Walk along side them, as long as they need, and help them when possible. But remember, their life is their journey.
While your paths may cross time and again, ultimately an individual’s journey will be a rather unique and authentic experience. Along this path, the side of the road will surely be rife with random rocks lacking meaning. But now and again, among the ruble, an individual’s curiosities will be sparked by sparkles of truth, and they will find gratifying gems. These are the very gems of wisdom that will push individuals further down their path to intellectual treasure, further towards their adventure for truth – towards individual growth and incredible self-development.
Ultimately, what another individual does is up to them, for its their life, their freedom, their choice. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t help them along that journey. Just help them in any way you can, especially if they implore you for help. That’s what friendship is all about. That’s what being a caring human being is all about.
And maybe, just maybe, one day these individuals will realize that it was you whose left some of those gems along their road, and that they’ve been given a gift, and that it’s been there all along, just waiting for the right moment.
And the right moment is now.
Give them that gift.
This article was written a few years ago for New Agora Magazine. It has been slightly edited, but the core content remains unchanged.
I share this because if you simplify a lot of the issues taking place nowadays, they are about conformists vs. non-conformists. Now, whatever side you fall on, that is your business. What you rarely see from each side, but even less from the conformist side, is an attempt at seeking understanding.
How can progress be made without understanding? Perhaps that’s where a lot of the arguments and discussions should start, seeking understanding and/or common ground. After all, we are all humans, and just because we can’t see eye to eye on every issue doesn’t mean we don’t have the option to see what other people have gone through, empathize with their plight, comprehend their obstacles and circumstances better, but most of all, understand why they are who they are and why they believe what they believe.
That alone will solve more problems than forcing people to do anything, even if you are inherently right.
 Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, p. 108.
 Peter Kreeft Ph.D., Philosophy 101 by Socrates – An Introductory To Philosophy Via Plato’s Apology, p. 74.
 Ibid., p. 10.
 Ibid., p. 19.
 John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down – The Hidden Curriculum Of Compulsory Schooling, p. xxxv.
 Tommi Juhani Hanhijarvi Ph.D., Dialectical Thinking – Zeno, Socrates, Kant, Marx, p. 32.
Have You Ever Walked On The Moon?
Never Underestimate The Power Of Imagination, The Power Of Dropping Seeds
The Artist & The Trance Of Inspiration
Stranger On The Moon
The Spectrum Of Balance
Wings Are Made To Fly, Seeds Are Made To Grow
Taking That First Step Towards A New Journey
My First Book The Twin Flame, Future Projects & More
Breakaway Individuals Throughout History: The Individuals, The Trailblazers & You
Why A Sound Mindset Is Crucial: The Light Side Of Mindset Vs. The Dark Side Of Mindset
Mindset Mindset Mindset!
A Sound Mindset Amidst The Obstacles Of Life
Mindwaves & Mindfulness
Modern Misteps Meet Mindfulness
Mindfulness & Zoning Out
Mindfulness & Music
How TV Robs You Of Your Life
How You Deposit A Truckload Of Black Pearls Into An Emotional Bank Account
How Are Your (Emotional) Bank Accounts Doing?
Emotional Bank Accounts: Investing In Yourself
Emotional Bank Accounts: Withdraw Withdraw Withdraw!
Emotional Bank Accounts: Mutual Funds
Emotional Bank Accounts: Trust
Emotional Bank Accounts: Dividends
Emotional Bank Accounts: Large Scale Withdraws
Emotional Bank Accounts: Deposits & Withdraws
Emotional Bank Accounts: Mutual Investments
Emotional Bank Accounts: Interest Rates
Emotional Bank Accounts: Gems Gems Gems, Babies Everywhere!
Emotional Bank Accounts: I Call Your 7 Cents & Raise You A Dollar
Emotional Bank Accounts: Account Closures
Emotional Bank Accounts: Anonymous Donations
Emotional Bank Accounts: Executive Decisions
How You Deposit A Truckload Of Black Pearls Into An Emotional Bank Account
How Are Your (Emotional) Bank Accounts Doing?
Poker & Life: Pulling The Friend’s Card
Poker & Life: The Comfort Card
Poker & Life: Pulling The Mask Card
The Inherent Power Of Curiosity
Time Management: Eternity & A Day Will Never Be Enough
A 7 Cent Investment Into An Emotional Bank Account To Convert A Hater?
What Do You Find Inspiring?
Poker FlashBack: Swimming With Sharks, Swimming With Whales
Imagination Rises Out Of The Jaws Of Defeat
What’s Your Story?
Infusing Energy Into The Individual
You The Individual Are Author Of Your Own Journey, Of Your Own Destiny
Harry Potter Fans Trash Talk? Say WHAT?!
Consciously Creating The Road Of Change, The World Of Tomorrow
What Are Your Personal Defaults?
A World Of Grays
Mindfulness, Loss & Friendship
The Opening Salvo, The First Minute
The Seeds Of Today, The World Of Tomorrow
Assumptions Are Mother Of All F@!$ Ups
Piercing Perspectives #1: Taking Things For Granted | Health & Mindset
Piercing Perspectives #2: You The Individual Are Extraordinary
Piercing Perspectives #3: The Divide & Conquer Left Right Paradigm
Piercing Perspectives #4: Poker As A Mirror For Life
The Individual, The Foundation Of Society