Scott Russel Sanders continues in his letter of advice for James Harmon’s book, Take My Advice, writing about self awareness, spirituality, and philosophical ideas. Towards the end of his letter he writes, “To understand as well as we can who we truly are and in what sort of world we have been set down may be our most important task.” What I like about this quote is that it takes away the importance of obtaining material things and addresses the questions or doubts that we all constantly sift through. For Sanders, what he is showing in this quote is the value of objectively understanding ourselves, the world, and our place in it.
The first part of Sanders quote speaks to me about the purpose of self reflection. Being able to think about what we are good at, what we enjoy and why, and what we truly want in life will help us find a path that is comfortable and appropriate for us. This is a truly important task for each of us, because an increased self awareness will allow us to begin to live our lives intentionally rather than living in a reactionary way. We do not have to chase the goals that our friends, the media, religion, and family tell us we need to chase. Self awareness and knowing who we are and what we truly desire will allow us to find a meaningful path to follow to a destination that we will be happy with.
The second half of Sanders quote seems to be a little more difficult in my opinion. I have come across many people who write and speak about self awareness, and while the road to self awareness is bumpy and full of obstacles (especially when you first set out) the road to a true understanding of the world we are in is more challenging and subjective. Self reflection (examining your goals, desires, motivations, and skills) takes practice and it can be hard to learn that life should not be judged by the sports car you drive, but there seems to be something more challenging about finding true sources for understanding the world. We will each approach the world with different perspectives and experiences, and we will each appropriate separate values to ideas and topics. I do not think we can honestly understand the world if we have not first mastered honestly knowing ourselves, and then it is a constant practice to source out the good and bad information. I am not saying, and I don’t think that Saunders would either, that we should just look for positive information about the world, but that we should search for objective information about things that will actually matter and have meaningful impacts in the world. With the avalanche of information on the internet, it is easy to get lost among fake news stories that do not represent the true world we live in. At the same time we can all have so many unique niche interests that we investigate and learn about, and each of these interests build new experiences and perspectives through which we can understand the world.
I think that Sanders in reaction to my writing would say that the first step to fulfilling our important task on this planet is to understand ourselves, including our perspective and how our experiences have shaped our perspectives. Next, Sanders would argue that we absorb as many other perspectives as possible, to help us begin to view the world in a new and meaningful way. This would involve vigorous research on our part to sift through the nonsense and gossip.