Know thyself; a memento mori

As my days inch forward and time spins in a centripetal manner, distance disassociates me from previous aspirations and leaves me floating in a vacuum of unguided will. Structure has completely broken down for me and the only asylum I have found is that in the hands of a most formidable colossus of a library, from which I run every day to the delicate antithesis of inspiring female hands. I am living in a strange reality that is sculpting me blindfolded with diamond chisels. 

Every hour is a reevaluation of the previous and confidence grows as trust in a mystical higher purpose grows. Or is it all just a psychosis of a mind searching for meaning?

Man’s search for meaning may arouse inner tension rather than inner equilibrium. However, precisely such tension is an indispensable prerequisite of mental health. There is nothing in the world, I venture to say, that so effectively helps one to survive even the worse conditions as the knowledge that there is a meaning in one’s life.
— Viktor Frankl

Inner tension wound taught....but there is comfort, or so enough for me, with these simple words. 

Last night conversation danced gently around Denmark's most esteemed thinker, Kierkegaard. Sitting with these international philosophy majors, I felt almost stagnant in comparison to their self-development. One was going on to pursue her masters while the other had notes of her thesis on the aforementioned Danish thinker scattered all over a nearby desk. I took pleasure in keeping up, but thoughts couldn't help but to focus on my own future, romanticizing traveling to Germany for intense study of Goethe's works, or perhaps even St. Petersburg to immerse myself in my native culture. Such disquiet these preoccupations can cause!

This morning I walked for the umpteenth time past Kierkegaard's statue in the library's courtyard. I decided to read a few passages of his journals to get a feel for this literary great. I was delighted to find a key quote of his existentialist views, and one that would relieve me profoundly. 

 

What I really need is to get clear about what I must do, not what I must know, except insofar as knowledge must precede every act. What matters is to find a purpose, to see what it really is that God wills that I shall do; the crucial thing is to find a truth which is truth for me, to find the idea for which I am willing to live and die.

One must first learn to know himself before knowing anything else. Not until a man has inwardly understood himself and then sees the course he is to take does his life gain peace and meaning; only then is he free of that irksome, sinister traveling companion — that irony of life, which manifests itself in the sphere of knowledge and invites true knowing to begin with a not-knowing (Socrates) just as God created the world from nothing. But in the waters of morality it is especially at home to those who still have not entered the tradewinds of virtue. Here it tumbles a person about in a horrible way, for a time lets him feel happy and content in his resolve to go ahead along the right path, then hurls him into the abyss of despair. Often it lulls a man to sleep with the thought, “After all, things cannot be otherwise,” only to awaken him suddenly to a rigorous interrogation. Frequently it seems to let a veil of forgetfulness fall over the past, only to make every single trifle appear in a strong light again. When he struggles along the right path, rejoicing in having overcome temptation’s power, there may come at almost the same time, right on the heels of perfect victory, an apparently insignificant external circumstance which pushes him down, like Sisyphus, from the height of the crag. Often when a person has concentrated on something, a minor external circumstance arises which destroys everything. (As in the case of a man who, weary of life, is about to throw himself into the Thames and at the crucial moment is halted by the sting of a mosquito.) Frequently a person feels his very best when the illness is the worst, as in tuberculosis. In vain he tries to resist it but he has not sufficient strength, and it is no help to him that he has gone through the same thing many times; the kind of practice acquired in this way does not apply here.
— Søren Kierkegaard's Journals & Papers IA Gilleleie, 1 August 1835
My man Soren!

My man Soren!

Instead of hastily finding pre-made track on which I can walk, I found the resolve to continue on my own path that I am creating day by day. Yes, I have to deal with nebulous abysses of despair but I do believe that there is some greater purpose to my zig-zag route. 


The crucial thing is to find a truth that is a truth for me. 

The ancient Greek Aphorism -  " know thyself "    - says: "the proverb is applied to those whose boasts exceed what they are", and that "know thyself" is a warning to pay no attention to the opinion of the multitude.

The ancient Greek Aphorism -  "know thyself"

- says: "the proverb is applied to those whose boasts exceed what they are", and that "know thyself" is a warning to pay no attention to the opinion of the multitude.

Consideration for continuing education was a serious one, and one that would surely open up opportunities that I wouldn't have exposure to otherwise. But now, as I sit in one of the most beautiful libraries in the world with the tomes of many a literary titan under my hand, would it be naive to discredit the education I am currently receiving? I believe the best curriculum I can set for myself now is to not lose focus and continue absorbing all of my doubts and utilizing them most effectively as stimuli for creation. 

I yet have poems to scribble, screenplays to develop, books to write, and philosophical labyrinths to navigate. I believe it to be more suspect if I was confident of any outcomes. 

The Mirror Poisons the Human Heart

Man shouldn’t be able to see his own face – there’s nothing more sinister. Nature gave him the gift of not being able to see it, and of not being able to stare into his own eyes…The inventor of the mirror poisoned the human heart.
— F. Pessoa

    Daunting words to hear as I start to think about all of the human grievances conceived with this demon of hyper self-awareness. Psychological complexes, insecurity issues, and could the endlessly superficial desire to perpetuate materialism also have a mirror as its root? If we were to distill happiness down to something that comes from within, from the heart, then yes, for all of the former ailments and conditions stem from a yearning to relieve something that we think our image is lacking. 

    The psychological effect of the mirror has seldom granted the beholder good wishes. Knowing what other faces and bodies look like, it’s easy to fall into fits of comparison and subsequent inadequacy. Yet the archetype of beauty that we hold as a barometer is a strange thing; it’s absolute mediocrity. Symmetry isn’t uniquely special, it’s just absolute. A beautiful face is simply even with all of its centimeters following the original formula. (A block of wood is also even, but drift wood is way more interesting.) A mirror doesn’t only stop to display comparative hardware flaws either, it swiftly indicates nuances of change to which only the projector of the reflection is privy. A small blemish, a pimple, wrinkles. These things start to weigh down the psyche with avalanche force when all they are, are organic indicators of one of the largest organs living and breathing and exhibiting the state of flux it’s always in. The results of such sightseeing experiments could, and many times do, lead to severe trauma. I can’t count how many days I spent absentmindedly fixated on a zit or blemish when I couldn’t even see or do anything about the damn thing. Those days would have been far more enjoyable had I not been cursed by the seductive touch of the mirror, which I expect to sing my praises every morning. 

   Could it be that mirrors also taint interpersonal relations, specifically intimate ones? Pessoa mentions it being sinister to see one’s own face, connoting evil. The inverse would be love, justifying the reference of the heart in the quote. Love, by broad-spectrum definition, is when one is emotionally in the thralls of another. The world and the self become secondary before the splendor of the aforementioned and when it is reciprocated proportionately, voila, love. 

    When one starts to compare themselves in physical appearance to assure safety within a relationship, things quickly go awry. Men don’t usually compare themselves with other men, and only a few times have I worried, "Damn, I hope my girl doesn’t get swept off her feet by that ripped hunk." I also believe those were the only times I used the word hunk. On the other hand (and speaking from personal experience) women can sometimes exacerbate kindling paranoia to drastic size stressing that their partner may fall for another. (I speak only of the external and that which registers on the visual spectrum. People are emotionally vast and the complexities are limitless. I dare not explore that rabbit hole here) I can only conclude the distrust in this case comes from feelings of inadequacy of one’s physical appearance and an acute awareness of body image. For if the comparison was carried out with a lesser attractive antagonist passing one's lover, the results would differ drastically. Ladies, drop the mirror mirror on the wall! It does you only harm! These poisonous thoughts will cripple you and then consume your relations. Guys, hit the gym. 

    The worst is when people compare their self-worth to others by observation of attire or bodyweight. This is a lowly low and I won’t get into the disgusting psycho-dynamics of, "Oh my god, did you see what she was wearing?" I’ll leave that one for you to just acknowledge. PROTIP: if you know people like this, weed these pernicious beings out of your life.

The Hall of Mirrors - Versaille

The Hall of Mirrors - Versaille

Furthermore, a mirror has the power to fabricate a void in our lives that we so desperately try to fill. I would rather say it has the ability to stimulate the mind to create that fictional void. Our appraisal of appearance becomes based on external objects that become the fixation points of our desires and ultimately the source, no matter how illusory, of our happiness. Flashy things are used as mechanisms to mask insecurities and materialism transmutes into homeopathy; but the diagnoses is a false-positive - you were whole from the very beginning. Oh why did you have to see yourself? 

   To bemoan, it may be extreme to say that "the inventor of the mirror poisoned the human heart", but wouldn’t the world be a bit more sincere if we acknowledge this affliction? 


(As a quick side note; working in the modeling industry, i’ve been in the midst of what are considered to be the most beautiful women in the world - individuals that bring my entirety into a stupor. And yet, some of these girls are part in large the most insecure people I have met. They are hyper-aware of themselves, unwittingly creating a plethora of worries that leaves them crippled with disquiet. I feel a huge sorrow because there is little I can do to help, even if the remedy is readily apparent. No matter what words are uttered, they go back into a world that holds a mirror up to their face that either says, "Yes, you are good enough" or "No. Goodbye". 

We must understand that if we are to continue to live in a world in which these mirrors exist, we can’t forget they are constantly morphing and distorting the "ideal" reflection. The mirror has become subjective. No one will ever be beautiful enough with such a flippant standard of measure. But with all relative terms in hand, no one will be truly ugly either.)