On Being A Gaseous Person
Posted by PintofStout on August 24, 2006
For the last two years I have been more introspective than ever before in my life. I have taken much time to examine who I am, what I believe, and how I do and should act. Nietzsche, in many moments of overbearing conceit, would describe what makes a great man, a philosopher, or someone incidentally like himself upon the pages of Beyond Good and Evil. One of the most striking traits turned out to be a harsh honesty, especially concerning one’s own persona. I have tried to be honest with myself and point out aspects of my personality which I consider to be lacking. (These traits have to be individually decided since there is no “good” or “evil” among such subjective values.)
Identifying various traits can be a first step that leads to solidification of personal beliefs or solid personal beliefs can lead to examining certain traits. If, for instance, one is making a study of their own behavior in as objective a manner as possible, they may find patterns in their thoughts and actions that can bolster a belief that was previously weakly held. Observed actions can also call attention to a belief that, when closely examined, is decided to be “bad” according to the actor. Likewise, by identifying unequivocally one’s core beliefs, those traits which highlight or even oppose such beliefs become starker when held beside those beliefs.
My continuing examination has been a synthesis of the two variations; traits to beliefs and belief to traits. When I started reading essays on the Free State Project’s website, driven by a general feeling of things not being quite right (I have since found them to be very, very wrong), I started to recognize patterns in my thoughts that had helped to solidify my beliefs about how the world works or should. Most notably of such thoughts was a snippet I wrote upon a blackboard in a physics lab one day long before I even thought politically. I had written about how allowing others to make your decisions, sometimes without a choice, made your life, from that point on, no longer your own. It was kind of a butterfly effect notion, but when reflecting upon this later, it seemed to me like I was speaking of autonomy without a firm philosophical anchor or even a subject. While solidifying pure belief, I was able to recognize otherwise indiscernible traits in my thoughts and actions.
Another major revelation about myself came in the form of examining my actions. I had decided that I was much too easily influenced by others’ opinions and beliefs. It could have been said that my beliefs reflected whatever I had read most recently. This frightful realization made me examine what I believed, and led to the solidification of my own core values. Referring back to the snippet I had written long ago, I now feel very independent in my own thoughts and can read contrary opinions critically without being too easily swayed. This example leads to the third step, which would be altering what isn’t satisfactory. My latest realization about my behavior will be the hardest to change, yet.
When I examined my professional career, including my education, I decided that I was an underachiever. At first my belief that material wealth and other societal standards of success were bogus influenced how I viewed said career. But when pondering my actions independent of that belief I found another pattern; I was gaseous. I wasn’t overly flatulent (at least not to the point of effecting my career), but like a gas I expanded to fill the container given and didn’t really try for any more. Call it a lack of drive. Call it laziness. Whatever.
Being a gaseous person does have consequences, though, for with the hardening of my beliefs came an establishment of goals. As I exist and act now, I am depending on someone else to establish a container for me to fill. I will learn my job and innovate only as much as needed for the moment; just enough to get by. I am relegating some of the most important choices of my life to someone else. (So much for independence!) This behavior (or lack thereof) is now contradictory to the goals following from my core beliefs.
As a result of continuing self-examination and a brutal honesty, I have identified myself as a lazy bum. Sometimes it is hard to come to terms with being a bum, but then what do I care? (Just kidding). Well, I’ve identified myself as needing more self-drive in order to completely free myself from any personal tyrannies I may suffer under, anyway. Now I have set out to make my actions fit more with the beliefs I hold important. The whole reason for self-examination is to identify weaknesses in order to correct them.
Tilting against phantom windmills, a.k.a. the “government,” is like worrying over the hangnail afflicting your newly severed foot. In my original (and quite jumbled) post about knowing thyself I tried to explain that knowing one’s self, through rigorous self-examination, is the first step toward freedom, and based on my experiences of self-examination (and a little help from Harry Browne) I also realize that it is the biggest step toward freedom. A solid understanding of yourself allows you be an individual. It also allows one to become more like the person you wish to be, based on your core beliefs; and that is freedom.
Thursday August 24, 2006 – 11:01pm (EDT)