I’ve been pondering this probably most famous quote from Socrates for a long time, and still unable to really articulate why it’s so damn hard to know ourselves.

  • Is it because of all the ‘murky water’ of culture, family, friends’ influence, that makes us unable to see through, and to know, really know our own personality?
    • Is it because we also change, always change, that makes knowing who we are really a journey instead of an end, until our final breath in life?

      But, to be honest, I’ve never thought about the actual richness of the world inside us.

      Until I read “The brothers Karamazov”.

      Or, more precisely, reading about how we human beings are full of contradictions - we often desire contradictory things simultaneously. To be able to reflect it in almost every character, Dostoevsky is more than a genius - he’s truly a legend.

      For instance, I doubt anyone could not be amazed by how a woman, in a court trial - with all its seriousness and cruciality, changes completely her statement, humiliating herself in front of the public, for the love that she suddenly realizes. Only in that critical moment, where the circumstance pushes her to the unbearable intensity, that her deepest emotions and thinking reveals themselves.

      This world inside, with all its thoughts, emotions, even considerations and calculations, I really doubt you can grasp anywhere else, except through these thick-as-a-brick classic books like this.

      ***

      In addition, "The brothers Karamazov" also presents a thought-provoking discussion about the roles of religion and state. On the one hand, it accepts the role of the state, with it straight, simple, and black-or-white laws and regulations. On the other, it reminds us how important it was for religion to be there - to save the souls of the culprits, to give them hope for the rest of their lives.

      Obviously, the problem is when these two institutions compete for power, especially when one of them is so corrupted that the other can’t help but have to control. However, it’s really important to remember, I believe, that it uses to be a separateness, a time where these two dealt with the heart and the mind, respectively.

      ***

      Finally, some of the most thought-provoking ideas well-presented/written:

      Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to such a pass that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love, and in order to occupy and distract himself without love he gives way to passions and coarse pleasures, and sinks to bestiality in his vices, all from continual lying to other men and to himself. The man who lies to himself can be more easily offended than any one. You know it is sometimes very pleasant to take offense, isn’t it? A man may know that nobody has insulted him, but that he has invented the insult for himself, has lied and exaggerated to make it picturesque, has caught at a word and made a mountain out of a molehill – he knows that himself, yet he will be the first to take offense, and will revel in his resentment till he feels great pleasure in it, and so pass to genuine vindictiveness – Father Zossima

      and

      The science of this world, which has become a great power, has, especially in the last century, analysed everything divine handed down to us in the holy books. After this cruel analysis the learned of this world have nothing left of all that was sacred old. But they have only analysed the parts and overlooked the whole, and indeed their blindness is marvellous. Yet the whole still stands steadfast before their eyes, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Has it not lasted nineteen centuries, is it not still a living, a moving power in the individual soul and in the masses of people? It is still as strong and living even in the souls of atheists, who have destroyed everything! For even those who have renounced Christianity and attack it, in their inmost being still follow the Christian ideal, for hitherto neither their subtlety nor the ardour of their hearts has been able to create a higher ideal of man and of virture than the ideal given by Christ of old. When it has been attempted, the result has been only grotesque.

      A Dreamer