The inequality of self-introspection
What is the meaning of my life? Or taking a broader view, what is the meaning of life? Or on an even broader scale, what is the meaning of everything around me? Or on an even, even, higher level perspective… oh well, before I get carried away, let me just stop there. But you get the drift. It could be a haunting question.
At the personal level, the question we generally ponder is what is the meaning of an infinitesimal moment of light that becomes us between the moment of our birth and death. A brief illumination like a supernova suddenly illuminating the night’s sky and then fading away.
What do I value? What is my purpose? What are my goals? They are some other side kicks that linger around the question of the meaning of life. They are Batman’s Robin.
These are the questions that have haunted us for millenia. They have led to philosophical traditions, helped construct various frameworks to help us live well and equanimously, and they have been responsible for the origin of different religions.
As far as I can tell, self-introspection is a privilege of us humans, I cannot be sure though. The lovely dog we kept for friends for some time seemed to occasionally ponder over similar questions once in a while. With his eyes half open, lying on the sofa, oftentimes he seemed to be lost in contemplation.
Although in principle, it is only humans who have the privilege for self-introspection, it is a luxury that only some can afford. A few who are more privileged among an entire class of privileged. Sounds similar to what Napoleon said “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”
Self-introspection is not all about taking a beach vacation on a tropical island. It can be a discombobulating experience. It often is. The need for self-introspection is some feeling of dissonance within that something is just not right. The feeling starts with the sense of losing balance, harmony, and connectedness. A feeling that is sometimes vague, while other times, demands full attention.
As I self-introspect and say to myself, why me, a stranger who toils all day to have something meager to eat at the end of the day, is watching at my self-proclaimed misfortune of suffering from self-introspection, That soul shakes their heads. I know what they are thinking — I will gladly trade places with you?
Self-introspection, my friend, is a luxury of well fed people, the stranger says. It is a luxury of people who have the luxury of discretionary time. It is a luxury for people who, in the middle of winter, can curl up on a sofa with a mug of hot cocoa in their hands.
The privilege of self-introspection, he says, is yet another sign of inequality in our society.
And you know, the stranger has a point. In the world today, what percentage of humanity can afford the privilege of self-introspection?
One day, perhaps, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will create an index of people who are engaged in self-introspection as the percent of population to define the poverty level. Until then…
Ciao, and please recognize the gift and privilege self-introspection can be.