Saturday, December 17, 2005

Self Knowledge

I have not loved the world, nor the world me;
I have not flatter'd its rank breath, nor bow'd
To its idolatries a patient knee,
Nor coin'd my cheek to smiles, nor cried aloud
In worship of an echo; in the crowd
They could not deem me one of such; I stood
Among them, but not of them; in a shroud
Of thoughts which were not their thoughts, and still could,
Had I not filed my mind, which thus itself subdued.

I have not loved the world, nor the world me -
But let us part fair foes; I do believe,
Though I have found them not, that there may be
Words which are things - hopes which will not deceive,
And virtues which are merciful nor weave
Snares for the failing: I would also deem
O'er others' griefs that some sincerely grieve;
That two, or one, are almost what they seem -
That goodness is no name, and happiness no dream.

-Lord Byron

When I was young I readily identified with Byron’s words from Childe Harold, because I knew myself to be distant from those around me. Although I’ve lost the adversarial posture I once had with the world, my concerns still are rarely those of my peers. I have come to understand that although their thoughts revolve around things such as careers, assets, social standing and politics, mine generally arise from concerns about finding and understanding a path of righteousness. I carry with me idealistic baggage of how things ought to be, but my actions are no different than those who do not. I have lived a selfish life no different than those who have spent their years accumulating wealth, or following fashion trends. Sadly, I’ve held disdain for those whose apparent concern for the world goes no further than their front door. Who am I to pass such judgment? Not only is my vision incomplete but I’ve been mistaken as to its vantage point. I feel as though I have let many opportunities to put portions of the world back in order, slip though my hands. How many times have I’ve walked away from people whose story I felt uncompelled to hear because my self centered high mindedness. How many times have I knowingly caused harm to others because of my arrogance? How many times have I said too much and done too little? The lens through which I view the world has seen its reflection. Too long I’ve dwelt in the comfort of my mind, avoiding that which is uncomfortable. Too often my heart has stood silently in the shadows witnessing the wrestling match between my intellect and my instinct. Have I deluded myself into thinking that my beliefs have an intrinsic value outside of my mind?

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