The Delphic Oracle in Classical Greek times was famous for pithy epigrams. One of the most famous is the well known injunction to “Know Thyself”. Plato said it another way putting his words into the mouth of Socrates, “The Unexamined Life isn’t worth living.”
What the heck does that mean? I contend that the examined life has to do with being aware of the things you do in your life. This is especially important for our actions. What do we want out of our actions? Asking these questions before you take the action is living the examined life. Is it hard? Not particularly; especially if it is habitual. It seems a little stilted when you first do this but as with all things it gets easier over time.
What about the phrase ‘the unexamined life isn’t worth living? What does that mean? Well I believe that is trickier. One of the wise men of ancient Greece was once asked if a person was happy. His response was interesting. “We can’t know until the end of his life. We have to judge his happiness by the sum total of his actions and interactions throughout his life.”
So in other words if you find yourself complaining a lot about your clients, your spouse, your children you might want to start asking yourself what you want. The examined life might not be happier. I don’t know everyone in the world. My belief is that the examined life gives you a method to steer yourself to a life of happiness.
Karen Langston says
Socrates demonstrated in his own life being fully human can be extremely challenging living a conventionally moral life rather than an examined ethical life. If he cannot convincingly claim that an examined life is necessarily more pleasurable he is left to suggest that is, in fact, the only life worth living if to be fully human. What is a a fully human life? Perhaps some are here to live a life lesson of unhappiness or mediocrity. We do not know everyone’s journey. However, I do agree with you that if we are complaining and unhappy we do need to examine why this is so and what we can do about it. What I tell my students and clients “you can not complain for whine unless you are doing something about it.”
It is said that the world is a mirror of ourselves. So what we see in others that upset us is something that needs to be address within oneself. Maybe when not addressed that when it become the ” Unexamined Life that isn’t worth living.”