The Tao of Roark

by Peter Saint-Andre

Chapter 14: Self-Knowledge

Previous: Chapter 13: Honesty

Objectivity about myself is hardest of all. Its many meanings are captured in the phrase "Know Yourself", inscribed at the ancient temple of Delphi and part of the core wisdom of classical civilization.

To know myself means to know my measure, my limits, my powers, my abilities, my special talents; to know my strengths and weaknesses; to know my place, my role, my context, my calling; to know what I can and cannot do; to know what I can and cannot be; to know the limits of my knowledge and wisdom, what I know and do not know; to know what I truly want in life; to know the name of my soul, my real identity, my true self; to know how easy it is to sell my soul and how hard it is to keep it; to know human nature; to know divinity.

And to know myself means to know, finally, that it is hard to know all this because self-deception is the easiest thing in the world.

How to attain self-knowledge? There are many paths: knowledge of anthropology, sociology, psychology, biology, and evolution; reading of history and biography; experience of novels, drama, music, poetry, painting, sculpture, and the other arts — even creation of such works where I am able; immersion in physical disciplines such as the martial arts; exploration of philosophies, religions, and spirituality; observation, experimentation, action, cooperation, and the exercise of all my faculties; mentorship and teaching; love and friendship; meditation, reflection, and solitude.

I walk as many of these paths as I can. They are tools that can help me gain objectivity about myself. Yet even with these tools in hand, I know that it is harder to be honest about myself than about anything else in the world.

Next: Chapter 15: Responsibility

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