The Unexamined Life

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I’ve run across variations on certain a meme a few times now. Text only, it goes something like, “I grew up hearing and learning racist, sexist, and homophobic things. Eventually, I learned to think for myself and unlearned it. You were raised that way? Unlearn it. It’s 2020 and there’s no excuse for it.”

Another variant: “You are not responsible for the programming you received in childhood. But as an adult, you are 100% responsible for fixing it.”

Or, to borrow from Socrates: “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

I grew up in the 1970s and 80s. There was plenty of racist, sexist, and homophobic crap in popular culture and daily interactions, even if we didn’t always realize it at the time. I did learn to think for myself as a teenager, but also came to the conclusion that most of the people around me didn’t or couldn’t, so I mostly kept my mouth shut except in close company with certain friends who’d also learned to think for themselves. Not everyone had. That’s still the case.

And generally speaking, it’s still very much the case. I don’t know if I should be disturbed or alarmed at how polarized so much of our society is becoming, about how easy it is for people to surrender their own thoughts to ideas without merit just because it’s easier. It’s probably something in our basic psychological makeup as a species, but it worries me.

I’m not sure how old I was when I moved beyond just thinking and reasoning for myself into the territory of questioning what I thought and believed. I do know that I’ve managed to make it a fairly constant cycle that probably pushes its way into overthinking territory now and then, but why should that be unusual in my life?

How do you actually know if you’re right if you don’t question it and figure out why you think that way? I feel very strongly that if you don’t continually question your own beliefs and thinking then you’ll only grow inside an echo chamber, and it might be one you make for yourself rather than one you’ve found.

And that’s not growth at all.

Stay safe and be well, everyone.

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