Ruminations on Self-examination

First, let me apologize for not sticking to my self-imposed regimen of only meat-posts for the next few months, but I was smacked in the face by these tonight and wanted to share them with you.  Second, I don’t proclaim to be any good at following any of these or be any sort of expert at them. I heard them tonight and will try to put them into action the best I can. I wanted to share them with you so that maybe you might get some benefit from them also.

In the 1950′s, Roman Catholic Archbishop Fulton Sheen had an Emmy award-winning top-rated television show called ‘Life is Worth Living‘ (drawing nearly 10 million viewers, giving Milton ‘Mr. Television’ Berle a run for his money). It was an extension of his long-lived radio show. Archbishop Fulton was a renowned philosopher having earned a doctorate of Philosophy from Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium and being the first American to win the Cardinal Mercier award for best philosophical treatise.

I try to listen to the re-broadcast of the audio from his television series whenever I can and it’s always a gem. He has a remarkable way of relating complex philosophical topics in simple ways that lay people like myself can understand.  Anyhow, tonight’s episode was on ‘self-examination’ and was particularly good. I tried to remember as much as I could in order to recite some of the better nuggets for you here. I’ve done the best I can, but these are ONLY PARAPHRASED snippets from my rather unreliable memory.  Hopefully they will do some justice.  If anyone has official transcripts or the direct audio (I found some audio, but not this specific episode) please let me know! I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Life is like a department store you walk into and see that the price of hair pins is $999 and the price of refrigerators is $0.15.  What is the comparative value of these two items? Obviously, this is a mistake. Without self examination, would you ever catch it? Or are you content to leave your values so far out of balance and be taken advantage of by those who can see what you cannot?

 

Ever notice how the people who don’t examine themselves are the quickest to judge everybody else?

 

The grandfather asked his grammar-school-aged grandson, “What next?”

“Middle school,” he replied.

His grandfather immediately shot back, “What next?”

“High school, College” — “What next?”

“Wife, family, career” — “What next?”

“Retirement, old age” — “What next?”

The grandson paused.

It is precisely at this stage of life — the end — which we should begin our self examination. If we allow the youth to persist in thinking with emotion and passion and seeking only good times — these lower parts of our psyche — the mind will eventually begin not to accept reason and self examination will become almost impossible. Eventually, life will come to a close, self examination will be forced upon them and all that will be left will be regret.

 

There are three pools in which to gaze and see aspects of your life:  The first pool is the way others see you, the second pool is the way you think others see you, and the third is the way you really are.  So rarely do people even cast a fleeting glance at the third pool. Yet true self examination cannot happen without long stares in that pool.

 

The only thing we truly posses in this world is our own will.  Power, fame, money, relationships can all be taken away. The only thing we are truly in control of is our own will. If you wish to truly know who you are and what you are worth, look at your will and adjust accordingly. True self-examination must examine only that which is real. Nothing is real in your life except your own will.

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About Chad Myers

Chad Myers is the Director of Development for Dovetail Software, in Austin, TX, where he leads a premiere software team building complex enterprise software products. Chad is a .NET software developer specializing in enterprise software designs and architectures. He has over 12 years of software development experience and a proven track record of Agile, test-driven project leadership using both Microsoft and open source tools. He is a community leader who speaks at the Austin .NET User's Group, the ADNUG Code Camp, and participates in various development communities and open source projects.
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  • http://elegantcode.com Jan Van Ryswyck

    Catholic University of Lueven in Belgium -> Lueven should actually be spelled Leuven. Just me nitpicking ;-).

  • http://chadmyers.lostechies.com Chad Myers

    @Jan: Fixed. Thanks!

  • Derek Greer

    I would set forth that while the concluding sentiment may be true, that “the only thing we truly posses in this world is our own will”, the ability for mankind to alter this will is a sentiment not universally held as can be seen in Luther’s “Bondage of the Will’, Edward’s “The Freedom of the Will”, and Schopenhauer’s “On the Freedom of the Will”. Perhaps people stare in the first two ponds more often because it is only there that they have the ability to alter what they see.

  • http://schambers.lostechies.com Sean Chambers

    Interesting post. Definately a good conversation piece.

    To add to your points, As you stated, the Buddha also noticed that all things are impermanent in life. Everything is constantly changing and nothing ever lasts. Especially Money, Possesions, Fame and Power.

    In this day and age, in most developed countries it is extremely difficult for people to grasp this concept, however once one understands that possesions mean nothing and never lasts, is the only time when you can contemplate the true nature of the world and gain the knowledge and wisdom that one attains from listening to one’s inner-self, or self-examination as you noted. This is no easy task however. Most people are so used to listening to their own Ego, that listening to something deeper takes practice and paitence but once we are able to do so, we gain lifetimes of wisdom in a very short time of bathing in the third pool.

    Hope I didn’t impose, just noting the Buddhist view =)

  • http://chadmyers.lostechies.com Chad Myers

    @Sean:

    Not at all. This wasn’t about religion in the first place, really. So other viewpoints/takes on the subject — including/especially those from other traditions — are certainly welcome.

  • http://shahkalpesh@gmail.com Kalpesh

    Good ideas do not belong to any “religion”. They are universal in nature.

    And every religion (christianity, islam, hinduism) is a set of refinements/rules added over the passage of time to the group’s own needs.

    The word religion is a limited thing in itself. Dharma is what I can think of – is universal as human beings, irrespective of whether someone is a christian, muslim or a buddhist.

  • http://schambers.lostechies.com Sean Chambers

    Agreed! =)

    Now if only the few can generate enough positive feelings to influence the many we’ll be in good shape =)

    Most people have a negative outlook but no matter the circumstance or scenario it is always better to look at the greener side =) Easier said than done though

  • Kerry MacLean

    While I don’t necessarily agree with Kalpesh that “every religion (christianity, islam, hinduism) is a set of refinements/rules added over the passage of time to the group’s own needs”, I do think that people use religion to try and get closer to the truth. One thing that most religions try to sell is that they are the one path to the truth – and any of us that have settled on one faith believe that of their chosen faith.

    Another interesting take is that we spend far too much time looking in other people’s pools instead of our own, and even imposing our desired self-image on them. Is this because it is so difficult for us to make modifications in ourselves once we see our true reflection?

    I love this type of post, Chad. How we approach life’s problems can reflect positively on how we do our jobs, and how we approach our work.