It was Socrates who said that “An unexamined life is not worth living.” Of course, being a philosopher in the 4 century B.C.E., one didn’t have Voice Mail, Email, Facebook, Twitter, and Super Bowl predictions amidst a countless sea of daily to-do’s clamoring to distract you from this special task.
But is it a luxury, examining your life, or is it a necessity?
It seems the answer is the latter. The challenge of finding meaning and orientation in life appears to have been one of our most basic of needs since the beginning of recorded time. Psychologist James Fowler describes human beings as “creatures who cannot live without meaning.”
While this need for meaning is present in each of us, it cannot be addressed exclusively-or even primarily- as an individual matter. And none of us really gets to start from scratch. We have been born into traditions, as a member of a family or as a member of the society we live in, and this has helped us to orient ourselves in the world, for better and for worse.
This meaning making is always BOTH a solitary endeavor AND eked out in relationship with others. Relationships being the vehicle in which we garner context in order to do any kind of self-examination and vice verse.
Maintaining relationships, having conversations with others, and choosing to be in community with those who are also trying to live their lives with intention helps to correct the all too human tendency (this correction is exacted sometimes with a feather, sometimes with a 2×4!) to make and keep assumptions about people, places, and things.