“The unexamined life is not worth living for a human being.”
March 9, 2020
Have you argued with someone recently on social media about an important issue, simply to have the time you took to bring about a serious subject be wasted due to the endless bickering? Me too! Welcome to the club my friend, we got a lot to talk about.
These days it certainly seems that not a moment goes by without someone having some sort of disagreement on social media. Not that people should always agree about everything, that’s not the point. Disagreements come in all shapes and forms, just like people do. Even so, it seems like a lot of the disagreements that abound nowadays regard the conformists endless push to inculcate their beliefs upon others and make them conform, regardless of the consequences.
For instance, my former Internet Service Provider, Sudden Link, blocked my household from accessing the Solar.com website. Not only is that action seeking to socially engineer the masses, but that’s conformity 101 to boot. In another example, schools are denying kids the ability to say no in school dances. What comes next after that? Are children going to be forced to share their belongings, or anything else for that matter, simply because the school says so? What precedent does that type of conformity set?
Viewing things from an overarching spectrum, there seems to be two prevailing schools of thought regarding how to handle these situations. When seeking truth, the initial school of thought, the non-conformists, don’t mind individuals asking them questions about beliefs and ideas. This is an open-ended approach that seeks to find answers, and not simply ingrain them. The second group, the conformists, take serious offense at anyone questioning them on anything, often taking a “my-way-or-the-high-way” approach that’s essentially a closed system of thought, as it does not allow any exploration of any subject matter by default. The former seeks to help the individual seek truth in their own way; the latter seeks to be a modern high priest, just like those of ancient times, who controlled the free flow of certain information to serve some ulterior motive.
This conformity trend is growing considerably. Individuals who wish to carry out further inquiry about a subject, to seek firmer ground upon which to stand have almost no options when speaking to closed-minded conformists because with a conformist everything must fit within a box, within their box, the proverbial blue pill approach if there ever were one. Intriguingly, what is happening to those who seek truth nowadays is not unlike what happened to the “Father of Philosophy,” Socrates, over two millennia ago.
Socrates was unafraid to question anything, and he 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 myriad issues. In parallel fashion to modern conformists, in Socrates’ time the ultimate conformists– as with much of history – was the state. This see saw bout of ideals that took place back millennia ago still echoes now, but at a much larger magnitude due to the advent of social media and the growth of civilization, as we can see from the countless times that we witness flame wars on social media between various groups. This type of issue can be significantly ameliorated if one were to remain open-minded and yet, skeptical, not seeking to impose their beliefs on others, which by its contentious nature simply stokes the embers of the Divide And Conquer Left-Right Paradigm.
Open-minded skepticism allows individuals to take a keen look at a subject and realize that maybe there is something to it, maybe not. But conformity does not allow that, as conformity ingrains ready-made answers. This is why Socrates is the Godfather of Non-conformity. Socrates is the living definition of a question mark, inexorable in his curiosity and stalwart in his unabashed drive to seek truth, wherever it may lead.
With the Socratic Method of inquiry, Socrates would begin to dissect an individual’s paradigm and its inherent flaws if any, often in the realms of justice and goodness. Because of Socrates’ critical method of finding (or getting closer to) truth, could also pierce through preconceived veils of thought, many times the paradigms individuals had, which had been instilled by the state and religion, would drastically shift or disintegrate altogether, clearing out an individual’s foundation of system-installed garbage. This led the state to lash out against him for questioning the system, particularly the “might makes right” the state was notorious known for. This type of system-imposed conformity is the tip of the spear that got him executed.
The state feared that the changes Socrates’ was bringing about in the populace’s mindframe would continue to spread, and from their tyrannical point of view they could not allow that. Fortuitously though, most, if not all, of what he was able to accomplish still echoes to this day – even to this very post, thousands of years late. This shows the raw power of resonance that’s emblematic of planting a seed that continually grows without any end in sight.
In similar fashion, conformists are doing themselves and the other individuals a significant disservice. This is because individuals pushing conformity are (1) not being open minded and exploring possibilities that might be crucial for them to know and could help them considerably, thus (2) not allowing themselves to grow by being able to see another individual’s point of view and whether it is true or not, while also seeing their own considered at length open-mindedly. Further, (3) by attempting to force conformity on others they are taking away a terrific learning opportunity from individuals truly seeking answers to poignant questions, or at least a better understanding of a subject, and (4) in the worst cases, these conformists are even losing relationships because of fear of the ego being overridden, as well as by having their beliefs being questioned. All of this stands against the very nature of free-flowing inquiry.
Keen conversations of proactive mental discernment have a certain flow, like a see saw, a back and forth between (like or unlike) minds. However, what is taking place is far from such a sensible and proactive approach to discernment. The talks that are taking place these days between conformists and non-conformists echo a societal instability in modern culture brought about in large part by conformists 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 to:
“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 Emphasis Added]
To put it differently, 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 it’s 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, thus getting to know those individuals at deeper levels than the superficial ones where people often argue. That simple step can help by orders of magnitude in understanding where another person is coming from and why the other person feels as they feel, allowing individuals to understand where to possibly venture towards next. This type of approach also helps forge stronger relationships.
You cannot map out where you are going unless you know precisely where you are at; you cannot understand where another person may venture towards, unless you understand where that person stands. These types of circumstances are arguably a potential point where significant progress could be made, for individuals not only come to realize what part of their personal map could be fraught with danger (think pharmaceuticals, for instance), but also what avenues might simply be a waste of that individual’s precious time.
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 simply borrow (or infuse) another person’s thoughts as their own. Such an instance robs individuals of making great progress in their strides for truth, and leaves them at square one for as long as that person chooses to stay there, without even an accurate mindmap to deploy, because they never explored where they were in the first place in any significant depth.
Now, when someone is being 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, and it is the process by which individuals come to an actual understanding of a particular subject. How is an individual ever going to gain insights, seek wisdom, unless they are allowed, or even urged to ask questions? Ponder that deeply.
As contemporary 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 & Underline Emphasis Added]
An individual that chooses not to hone their mental faculties and polish their intuition will forgo the opportunity to learn to discern the forest from the trees. If said individual accepts the authoritarian conformist’s attitudes they will suffer greatly. Likewise, an individual that conforms will also junction the ignorance of others into their own paradigm, curtailing or outright derailing their capabilities.
These individuals will have a harder time – or nigh impossible time – figuring out deception, social engineering, and propaganda, as we are seeing nowadays; these individuals won’t be able to figure out a well argued concrete argument based on facts and logic from outright speculation or downright lies; these genuinely curious individuals will also not become as robust and self sufficient as possible in this age of (dis)information. Such an individual will be just like a boat in the ocean with a busted sail that is drifting aimlessly within a seemingly endless storm with the winds and the waves being their only guide.
Delving deeper into this entire conundrum, perhaps 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 individuals to care enough about others, regardless of beliefs. A truly caring and mindful individual will not simply railroad someone else because they believe something different. Disagreeing with someone can happen amicably, contrary to what we often see on social media. In fact, this was the norm long ago in the nascent stages of America, where public discourse took place often with individuals carrying out a traditional method of inquiry.
As such, following a philosophy of seeking personal growth through an attempted mastery of your overall wellbeing seems like a prudent choice to say the least.
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 & Underline 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. Some of these very instances might just be once-in-a-lifetime type of opportunities. Individuals that are not allowed to explore life mindfully in a resounding extent will only realize a fraction of the capability they would otherwise be able to achieve if they were allowed to venture freely in their 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 (and hopefully 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.”
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 discovered. Truth and Logic the only light beams that disintegrates the shadows of deceit. And the only way to attain truth is for individuals to hone their inner fire, their inner light, their intellectual faculties to the utmost extent, and be relentless at continuing that process throughout their lives.
Touching upon this very concern, the late John Taylor Gatto, who was an award winning teacher, advocate of self-directed learning and of individual freedom, had this to say 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 comfortable assumptions – our beliefs – about what is worth learning for each us, while keeping in mind what could spawn the most growth, is what part of this entire conundrum is about. That is why it is crucial to keep in mind to never:
“… 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 simply atrophy, like someone who uses crutches constantly has their muscles atrophy from disuse.
Allowing other individuals the opportunity for growth is one of the greatest gifts we can give another human being in their journey. Along this journey of life, other individuals may at times need a hand. Walk along side them as long as you wish, or as long as they need, and help them when possible. But remember, their life is their journey; it is they who must carry out their own growth. And who knows, perhaps it is that person that you meet along your road that helps shed light into everything that truly matters to you as a person, and what you hold dearest in life.
While we cross paths with countless individuals, ultimately an individual’s journey will be a rather unique and authentic experience. Along their path, the road will surely be rife with opportunity. And now and again, within those opportunities, an individual’s curiosities will be sparked by embers of truth, and they will find gratifying gems by the side of the road, sometimes in the middle of nowhere, and yet, were simply found because there was an inherent curiosity in venturing into the unknown in a nonconformist way, seeking truth, or at least better understanding of a subject.
These are the very gems that will to growth, that will push individuals further down their own path of self improvement, for not only will they understand themselves more with every new insight they themselves attain, but they will also broaden their perspective and be able to see a larger vantage point of reality, venturing deeper within their adventure for truth, and towards individual growth and also towards self-mastery as well.
Ultimately, what another individual does is up to them, for it’s their life, their freedom, their choice. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t help them along that journey or that they can’t help you along your path. Just help them in any way you can, especially if they implore you for help, but be open to other’s point of views as well. That’s what friendship is all about. That’s what being a caring human being is all about, and when you couple that with the ever-elusive search for truth, the possibilities are limitless.
And maybe, just maybe, one day some of these individuals will realize that it was you who’s left some seeds along the road, to be planted on their own time, in their own moment, when the time is right. Or maybe someone leaves you a seed instead that allows for endless possibilities.
Perhaps you plant that seed, and it grows into a forest that invigorates your spirit, breathing newfound life and inspiration into your personal paradigm, allowing you to see reality with a black canvas of possibilities that you could have never seen in the past if you were locked in closed system of thought.
That’s the power of employing an open-system of thought. A power that is limitless, just like you.
 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.
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About The Author:
Zy Marquiez is author of Amor Vincit Omnia – Love Conquers All, and also an avid book reviewer, poet, inquirer, an open-minded skeptic, health freedom advocate, and writer who aims at empowering individuals in many ways, while also delving deeper and regularly mirroring subjects like Consciousness, Education, Creativity, Individuality, Ancient History & Ancient Civilizations, Forbidden Archaeology, Big Pharma, Alternative Health, Space, Geoengineering, Social Engineering, Propaganda, and much more.
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