A State of Undress
For as long as I can remember, to “know thyself” has been a cornerstone, if not a prerequisite, of a self-actualised mind. Socrates once proclaimed that “an unexamined life is not worth living”; the aphorism was once inscribed in the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo. In modern times, self-help gurus proclaim the benefits of self-knowledge; advertisements weave unending tales of a better and truer ‘you.’ Yet despite the pedigree of the statement and the sentiment behind it, of the value of a mindful and well-examined life, such advice is often problematic when put in practice. To “know thyself” is simplistic; while constructing a crisp self-image allows us to build more meaningful and honest relationships, enables us to navigate different situations, and understand the world around us as well as our place within it, such an aphorism assumes the solidity and finite development of the self. Yet if we change while our self-narrative remains the same, the gulf between who we are and who we think we are widens. And this leads to conflict.
In her preface to July’s Moon Lists, Leigh Patterson writes of her tendency to “hold tight to rigidity, enforced self-created (and admittedly arbitrary), subconscious rules.” She continues, “the ocean reminds me that I – and everything around me – is always changing, in flux, a wave of motion and slippery intangibility.” It is so easy to construct a rigid mould of what the world is and what principles define its – and its inhabitants’ – motion, including ourselves, our thoughts, who we are, what we desire, how we feel. Yet there is liberation to be found in the acceptance that we are arbitrary, constantly in motion, growing, stretching and decaying. In understanding that nothing – even our convictions – stays the same, perhaps we can then find value in the daily undressing of the mind, in the practice of re-learning who we are, scars and all, in the present moment.
Introduction Chynna Lao
Images Ivy Erlinger
A series of questions to ponder, with hope that it will ignite a renewed sense of curiosity. Who are you today?
- What are you resisting?
- Describe a situation where you felt valuable.
- What is one thing you are grateful for today?
- Did you do something in secret? What? Why?
- What have you lost?
- What have you gained?