Life Unexamined


Socrates (Photo credit: Ian W Scott)

Today’s Daily Prompt was “Write a review of your life — or the life of someone close to you — as if it were a movie or a book.”

When I read that I rebelled, I didn’t like that idea at all. Should a life be “reviewed”? Should I reduce my own life or that of someone close to just a plot line?

I could take my grandfather’s life or my mother’s life or my own life and write a glowing review – that’s almost exactly what this Prompt is asking for. The alternative is to look at flaws and become a scathing critic. I’m not prepared to do that to myself or someone I love.

It seems that this Prompt is asking me to devalue one of the most precious things I know, a human life. How can I reduce a life to the same level as something so transitory as a book or a movie?

It also asks me to “review” it. This implies that I could rate one life against another, rate one as “better” or “worse”. I’m certainly not prepared to do that, how can I say that your life is better or worse than mine? A life is not something that has an assessable and variable value. Sure, it has a “value”, the person living it usually wants to keep it but how can I say one is a four star life while the other only rates three?

That doesn’t mean I don’t look at my life and assess it. As Socrates would have it “The unexamined life is not worth living”.

But the examination Socrates is talking about is one of self reflection, a reflection for personal growth. Socrates is asking us to look at our life not to rate it but to see who we are and what we do, to look at our life not to criticise but to learn and grow.

There is still a problem here. At first it seems that Socrates is just asking us to use our ability to think deeply to become more than animals and live a life “worth living” but this then implies that if you don’t do that then you are less than those who do. It smacks of elitism.

Perhaps we might think of a slightly different translation of Socrates’ words. “A person cannot live an unexamined life.” That’s better, here I’m saying that you can’t help but examine your life. I think that’s true, we are constantly turning our critical faculties onto ourselves and our actions. To be alive and to be human is to think and the obvious place to turn that reasoning faculty is towards ourselves and our lives. We might not do so to the same philosophical level as Socrates but we all do it.

So we all write our own review of our life, we don’t do it to rate our lives but to learn and grow.

I’ve got a review of your life for you Dear Reader:

Dear Reader has a full life. Every day they wake to a world full of wonder and a life full of possibilities. Even on the darkest of days, though they may never admit it, something marvellous will happen. Some days seem dark and slow and some days seem to be bursting with joy but every day Dear Reader will learn something and every day make mistakes because that’s what it means to be human.

Enjoy your life, examine your life, but never think it has less value than any other.


7 thoughts on “Life Unexamined

  1. Pingback: Four Stars: A Celebration of Life | Khana's Web

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  5. So lovely and true! You have an amazing perspective and insight… As I grow in this world I’m grateful to run across people who help me to become a better person. I feel this post and your blog has helped do just that.
    Great post,
    -Brooke’s Sister

  6. Pingback: Books, Ireland and a few blanks | Kick-Ass Ireland!

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