Gnothi Seauton — Know Yourself Before Solving Global Challenges

It is said that a brain‘s size pos­i­tive­ly cor­re­lates with its host‘s level of intel­li­gence. The abil­i­ty of human beings to use tools in very elab­o­rate ways, to cre­ate art or to invent and tell sto­ries to each other peo­ple, seems to prove cer­tain suprema­cy over other crea­tures. As long as we won‘t have dis­cov­ered super­nat­ur­al life, humans regard them­selves as being the pride of cre­ation. Alas, we should start with Gnothi Seau­ton — Know Your­self — before solv­ing glob­al challenges.

Is it? Of. course, we all know, it‘s not. The mere capac­i­ty of wear­ing the biggest brains in the his­to­ry of our plan­et does not seem to be a suf­fi­cient con­di­tion for either a peace­ful, healthy, nor a stress­less or happy life. Self-help books and often quot­ed old pearls of wis­dom appar­ent­ly sug­gest the oppo­site: those indi­vid­u­als who know less, who live far abroad, who own less, they would lead a health­i­er, hap­pi­er and peace­ful life. How do these obser­va­tions go together?

A Con­tra­dic­to­ry World

We expe­ri­ence so many man-made con­tra­dic­tions each day: although there is com­mon knowl­edge about many aspects of life, and although — thanks to the inter­net — this knowl­edge is avail­able world­wide, peo­ple now and then behave as if this knowl­edge wouldn‘t exist. With­out going into detail, we know that there is a huge cli­mate change tak­ing place, that we can‘t peace­ful­ly live togeth­er with the help of weapons, that we must not and don’t need to let peo­ple die because of hunger, that our planet’s abil­i­ty of self-preservation is com­ing to its end, etc.. Yet still, we act as if we do not know all that.

We don‘t nec­es­sar­i­ly have to address the big prob­lems. Actu­al­ly, dis­cussing glob­al chal­lenges is quite easy — none of us is respon­si­ble for solv­ing these prob­lems by her­self. To solve them, we would need.….…and how long would that take!?

It makes much more sense to devote one­self to solve small­er prob­lems — prob­lems that occur around us, or — prob­lems that occur or start in our­selves. These prob­lems are so close that we can see them more clear­ly, and poten­tial­ly in their entire­ty. This, again, would mean we could ana­lyze these prob­lems and find solu­tions to them. As dis­cussed in my pre­vi­ous text, we know from neu­ro­science that sit­u­a­tions — e.g. prob­lems — don‘t exist in an objec­tive way, but in our indi­vid­ual per­cep­tion, only. And this seem­ing­ly obscure aspect is, in my view, at the cen­ter of the above men­tioned schiz­o­phrenic behav­ior of human beings: all knowl­edge, all facts are indi­vid­u­al­ly inter­pret­ed and used for draw­ing very dif­fer­ent con­clu­sions from them.

Gnothi Sea­son — Know Your­self: Con­sen­sus At The Level Of Consciousness

Intu­itive­ly, we try to prove to oth­ers that our views are based on facts — or — the „right facts“. That means, we imply that we could reach an agree­ment if only the other one would accept our fact-based argu­ments. I don’t believe this to be the best approach to reach con­ver­sa­tion­al con­sen­sus — because of a cer­tain impos­si­bil­i­ty of syn­chro­niz­ing our very dis­parate knowl­edge bases, views, and atti­tudes. I‘d rather sug­gest reach­ing con­sen­sus at a deep­er level, at the level of con­scious­ness. I assume that, at a very basic level, all human beings want the same: we all strive to meet our needs accord­ing to Maslow. How­ev­er, we use dif­fer­ent tools to achieve our goals. 

How could a con­sen­sus at the con­scious level look like? Let‘s look at a very com­mon exam­ple of a con­ver­sa­tion­al prob­lem of today: A per­son (the sender) says some­thing that, from the per­spec­tive of anoth­er per­son (the receiv­er), should not have been said because of its deroga­to­ry nature. If the receiv­er allows for the notion that the sender‘s orig­i­nal intent was. not to use a deroga­to­ry word, but she either was drunk or there were other cir­cum­stances that made her using this word, then the receiv­er could for­give — since she feels that the spo­ken word does not reflect the sender‘s orig­i­nal intent. Of course, for­giv­ing is a lot hard­er if the receiv­er does not have the impres­sion the sender acted in good faith.

Gnothi Seau­ton - Know Yourself

I believe that, if we first assume that peo­ple intend to act in good faith, and sec­ond­ly we try to syn­chro­nize with them at the con­scious­ness level, we will dis­cov­er more com­mon grounds than we imag­ine. We gain a high­er level of under­stand­ing of oth­ers and their — for­mer­ly strange — behav­iors. And we will improve our abil­i­ty to accept the dif­fer­ences between our­selves and oth­ers. In the end, we are human beings and our basic needs are sim­i­lar. Let‘s try to under­stand each other bet­ter. By doing this, we have turned towards a big­ger prob­lem than the above-mentioned world prob­lems: we have addressed the moth­er of all prob­lems: our self. Or, as the ancient greek had inscribed in the fore­court of the Tem­ple of Apol­lo at Del­phi -Gnothi Seau­ton — Know Thyself!

3 Replies to “Gnothi Seauton — Know Yourself Before Solving Global Challenges”

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