Practicum: Know Your F*cking Self.

Knowledge can be expensive. Typically the people who have it are busy using it, and sharing it with you is only convenient if you’re willing to compensate them. Further, people who don’t have it often don’t realize it, making them a huge pain in the ass. (FYI, being a pain in the ass can also be expensive, avoid it whenever possible.)

Wisdom, unfortunately, can’t be purchased from other people like technical, or scholarly knowledge. It comes in the crude and unrecognizable form of life experience that you’ll have to render into meaning for yourself. Though it’ll cost a very high price, it won’t be such a direct exchange as paying tuition or buying your buddy a case of beer. Your payment will be emotional struggle, personal sacrifice, and suffering.

He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.
— Aeschylus

Pain is unavoidable, but not all pain is bad for you. Profound challenges, painful to overcome, take many forms. Enduring a heavy loss is valuable because it gives you the opportunity to ask yourself, “What am I without that?” Answering that question forces you to consider that the thing you refer to in your mind as, “me,” is unique in the universe, wholly detached from anything else, and, as such, must be given its due attention, respect, and care. Though it can never be defined, it must always be considered. Commitment is another source of pain and sacrifice, but one we have the luxury of choosing for ourselves. It allows you to ask the question, “What am I as that?” Whether your commitment is to a relationship, a business, physical training, or some other fundamental disruption to daily life, serious commitment will change your perspective. It forces you to identify as being less than something else. It shows you that the, “me,” is actually, “we,” wholly inseparable from anything else. Revealing that even the smallest details of the external world must be given their due attention, respect, and care. Though you can’t control the world, you must be an active part of it.

Confused? Of course — you’re incredibly fucking confusing. What’s worse is that the wiser you grow, the more you’ll find your wisdom is lacking.

Trivial challenges are often the clearest indication of that effect. If you can’t contemplate the ugliness of the world, interact with people who challenge your ideals, assemble a piece of furniture, stand in a long line, or sit quietly in a room by yourself without becoming angry or upset, you have quite a long way to go on the path to self-discovery. The wise are patient, secure, and, most importantly, tolerant. They have no choice. Anyone who has suffered enough to become wise; anyone who has asked those difficult, self-identifying questions; anyone who has truly learned about themselves has also learned that they, that each of us, contain every bit of the unsavoriness we perceive in others.

You contain the evil of the world. Until you realize that, you know almost nothing about yourself.

Whether spiritually, politically, or intellectually, the self-righteous are among the greatest of fools. You’re finite, insignificant, and hopelessly blinded by subjectivity. As long as you insist upon projecting evil entirely onto others, no matter your rationale, you’re incapable of growth. You’ll remain the pathetic coward, unwilling to take responsibility for your problems and perpetually placing blame on someone else. You are society, its problems are your problems. As long as you harbor hatred for anything else, you’ll hate yourself. For you are that. No matter how hard it is to bear, the truth will always come at a less terrible cost that ideology. The wise love truth and don’t defer blame.

Here’s another truth for you, almost as difficult to accept: you have nearly unlimited potential. That isn’t just some new-age, self-help bullshit. It’s plainly obvious. Reality is fractal in nature, and the expanse of the cosmos cascades outwardly and inwardly to scales so respectively large and small as to exceed the grasp of mortal comprehension. You are a waypoint on that journey between impossible ends. You reflect them and they reflect you. No matter how disparaging you may be of yourself, no matter how poorly your accomplishments may match your aspirations, you’re absolutely, indisputably playing your part in the grand orchestra of distant starlight, and you represent the mystery and miracle of life, manifested billions upon billions of times over within your physical body. Everything you do matters. You contain, and contribute to the infinite. You are that. The wise view life, though fragile and fleeting, as being precious, and live it with purpose.

You’re a series of irreconcilable paradoxes. If you want to live well, however, it’s imperative that you learn as much as you can about what you are. Fail to prioritize the acquisition of wisdom at your peril. This is an ancient lesson. Don’t avoid the struggle. Accept loss. Make commitments. Confront the evil within. Take your proper place. Know yourself.

Authored by Jason Richburg
GFDA Copywriter and Curriculum Director