Socrates said, “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.”
But what does that mean?
I googled “know thyself” and found many interpretations. So I’ll define it the best I can, and you can refine or edit my definition as you see fit.
To know yourself is to be aware of your strengths and your weaknesses, to celebrate your uniqueness, and to strive toward an ideal.
The Bible says we are made in God’s image (see Genesis 1:26); therefore, we have great potential for love (because God is love—see 1 John 4:16). And because God is the Creator, we are also creators, though not on as grand a scale. But unlike God, we are not perfect. Our human condition can always use a tune up.
The tune up starts with examining ourselves and taking stock.
The examination can take many forms. Meditation. Journaling. Asking ourselves questions.
Here are some questions to help you know yourself better:
- How am I loving? How do I interact with the people in my life—my family, my friends, my coworkers, my neighbors, my superiors, my acquaintances? Am I helpful? Critical? Kind? Judgmental? Generous? Competitive?
- Does my work contribute to society? (Sometimes it may be hard to tell. Easy jobs to evaluate: brain surgeon, yes; bank robber, no. The more mundane occupations get a little harder: supermarket checker, yes; waste management engineer, yes; professional gambler, no. Professional football player, that’s a hard call.) If your work helps only yourself, maybe you should check out the next question.
- What am I doing to make the world a better place? Am I volunteering? Am I donating money to good causes? When I see someone in distress, do I stop and help? Do I clean up my own messes?
- What do I do well? What are my skills and my gifts? How am I using them?
- What are one or two skills or qualities where I am lacking? Am I patient? Do I keep in touch with my friends and extended family? Am I physically fit? Is my spending out of control?
The reason for asking yourself questions like these are to understand yourself, so that you can use your resources wisely. You may want to “spend” yourself more effectively. You may find things about yourself that you want to change. Knowing yourself truly is a path to wisdom, a way to grow and to live wisely.
Why am I including an article about knowing yourself on ARHtistic License? Because your self-knowledge informs your art. Whether you are a quilter, a songwriter, a visual artist, or a writer, what you create comes from deep within yourself. Your art can be part of the healing process for yourself and for others who experience your creations. Knowing yourself will make you a better creator.
If your self-examination reveals way more negatives than positives, you may be suffering from depression, or guilt, or low self-esteem, and you may need some help getting out of your slump. Counseling may be in order. At very least, sit down with someone you trust and talk about your concerns. Sometimes someone who knows you very well will be able to point out strengths you didn’t know you had.
Bloggers, it’s December already. Have you planned some holiday posts for your blog? No ideas? No worries! You could write about:
- Other December holidays your family observes. Do you celebrate Kwanzaa or Hanukkah? Write about the history of your holiday (for readers who might not know) and share what it means to you.
- Organizational tips for Christmas. How do you get everything done? Do you do a little bit all year long? Do you set goals and give yourself deadlines to achieve them?
- Memorable holiday celebrations. Whether it was the Christmas you got your dream gift or your first one as a married couple, your followers will love reading about it.
- Favorite traditions. Do you always go to midnight Mass? Do you eat latkes? Go caroling? Would it not be Christmas if you didn’t eat candy canes?
- Ideas for family Christmas photos. Whether you get special cards printed up or just post them on Instagram. Wear matching outfits or sit on the staircase. Give us your best poses. Here are some ideas to get you going.
- Christmas gift suggestions. Themed lists are great: gifts for teachers; gifts for the man who has everything; 25 gifts under $25.
- Advent ideas for families. Maybe you’d like to draw attention away from the commercialism of the season and proactively focus on the religious aspects. What are some meaningful ways to deepen your spirituality?
- Christmas crafts that kids can make. Decorations, cards, ornaments, gifts, wrapping paper.
- Favorite Christmas ornaments. Take pictures of some of yours, and tell the stories behind them. Were they given to you? Did you buy them as souvenirs of trips? Were they handed down in your family?
- Favorite Christmas recipes. If you’ve got one, share it. Here’s a Christmas breakfast recipe from the ARHtistic License archives.
- Favorite Christmas books. I like to read a new Christmas book every year if I can, and sometimes I revisit old favorites. Here’s an article about Christmas books from Doing Life Together.
- Favorite Christmas carols. This could be a simple list, or you could embed YouTube videos. I love this article about “Breath of Heaven” from MyOBT.
- Favorite nativity scenes. Maybe you have one. Maybe you love the one at your church. Maybe your friend has a collection of them. Here are some lovely nativities from Parenting with a Smile.
- Favorite Christmas movies. Clue your readers in to the best ones to watch. Here’s a review of several Christmas movies from the ARHtistic License archives.
- Activities to occupy children over winter break. Your readers will thank you on December 27 for this one, whether you suggest writing old-fashioned thank you notes, drinking cocoa with marshmallows, or skating on a frozen pond.
Okay, bloggers. I hope this gets your creative inspiration going for some fabulous December blog posts. Feel free to post your links in the comments below so we can see what you’re doing.
Lots to read this weekend.
- Beautiful hand-stitched quilts.
- Director Henry Selick was my classmate in high school. Not that he’d remember me. (We traveled in different circles.)
- Judy Dykstra is one of my favorite poets and bloggers. I enjoyed this list of questions she answered, and especially her book recommendations.
- David Bowie on creativity. If you really want to go down the rabbit hole, click on some of the links.
- A rather grim quilt exhibit.
- Corporations on campus: just good business, or indoctrinating our best and brightest young people into the military industrial complex for the sake of profits?
- Gifts for the literary people in your life.
- December activities to do with your children.
- Striking cat photography.
- Fabulous knitted projects.
- Sting, the storyteller.
- Stuck in your story? Daydream.
“You need to thank the critic; you need to bless the critic; you need to show the critic the door.”
My name is Andrea and I’m a bookaholic. I have between one and two hundred books in this house waiting to be read, and I try very hard to restrain myself from buying more until I finish reading at least some, but somehow I accidentally acquire more and more. I usually have five books in progress at any given time.
I have several TBR (to be read) piles in the hall closet. I keep opening the closet and peeking at them, because I just can’t wait to start these:
- The Library of Afro Curiosities: 100-Word Stories by Ran Walker. I recently wrote three flash fiction stories for a contest, and discovered that I like the form. I read that Ran Walker is a master.
- Rezzies Revolt by Carlos and Crystal Acosta. This is the first book in the GeriAntics series by a husband and wife team who are members of a critique group I recently joined. It’s about the residents of an active independent living community of senior citizens and their adventures. I’ve read snippets of book three (their current manuscript in the works) and it’s hilarious.
- Something to Live Up To: Selected Poems by Benny Andersen, translated by Michael Goldman. I recently read a wonderful article about Michael Goldman and his work, particularly with the Danish national treasure, Benny Andersen.
- Going Rogue: Rise and Shine Twenty-Nine by Janet Evanovich. The Stephanie Plum series is my guilty pleasure. I’ve read the twenty-eight previous volumes.
- Every Reason We Shouldn’t by Sara Fujimura. I love Fujimura’s young adult novels. This one is an ice-skating romance.
- Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel. I’ve read three others of her novels and loved them all. This one is about a colonist on the moon.
- The Boys from Biloxi by John Grisham. I’ve read almost everything he’s written, and I’ve loved almost of all them.
- Carravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane by Andrew Graham-Dixon. A biography of the great and tragic late-Renaissance painter.
- Keep It Moving: Lessons for the Rest of Your Life by Twyla Tharp. The dancer and choreography explains how and why movement is a huge part of aging well.
Don’t these books sound fabulous? And I know there are many more in my collection that will also enrapture me. So many books, so little time!
Now it’s your turn. What’s in your TBR pile? Share in the comments below.