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Socrates Was Right: The Only True Wisdom Is In Knowing You Know Nothing

Diamond Yao By Diamond Yao Published on June 15, 2016

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"Quit your job!"

"Don't quit your job: you'll be a bum on the street!"

"Follow you heart!"

"Don't follow your heart: follow the money!"

"Become famous!"

"Quit being shy and go talk to every stranger in the room!"

"Find out what you want to do with your life!"

"Don't spend your youth getting ahead but enjoy life instead: you'll have plenty of time for that later!"

"Reach for the stars!"

"Don't reach for the stars: respect the unique limitations that nature has set up for you!"

"Be yourself!"

"Follow the norm or you'll never survive!"

"Just work psychotically hard and you'll rule the world!"

"Everyone has limits that can't be conquered with hard work!"

"Love will just find you one day!"

"Start acting on every idea you have NOW!"

"Spend your life serving others!"

"Be ambitious!"

"Dream big!"

"Make as many friends as possible!"

"Love everyone!"

I could go on and on and on like this for years on end, cataloguing every piece of wisdom I've ever received. But I won't, because I will probably die before I will be even close to finished.

Our current lifestyle, with its trail mix combination of career, money, globalization, ever-changing family structures, 9 to 5 workdays, mountains of friends that are made with the click of a mouse, traffic, spirit of competition against the world, optimized utilitarian maximal productivity, ambition at all costs, individualism, decentralized social justice protests and iPhones is a relatively modern phenomenon. We are still in the stages of figuring it out, so it is unsurprising that there are mountains of awful, often contradictory advice out there on how we should exist. We live in an era of change and confusion, and no one quite knows what the heck is going on, or where the heck all of this is going.

Real hard-earned wisdom isn't sexy. Everyone would rather romanticize about the mythical spark of talent someone possesses for mathematics than attribute that person's skill to years of careful craftsmanship enabled by prolonged exposure to the field (notice that I did not say "years of hard work", the fundamental tenet of meritocracy: hard work alone inevitably fails at some point). Everyone would rather romanticize about the godly allure of someone who just keeps attracting love interests effortlessly than attribute that person's success to a series of very unique external life circumstances that made extensive socializing (in other words, dating practice) favourable. Everyone would rather just be themselves than...I don't even know what, since the culture of the self is so pervasive.

How can we build a life worth living? Where can we possibly find the advice we need to do that, since there is so much bad advice out there? And how are we even supposed to evaluate advice, something that is inherently subjective? I'm currently toying with the idea of only trusting advice that has been time tested through millennia of human civilization. I'm talking about religious teachings, philosophical doctrines, thinking patterns from the past that are still thriving today in some form. After all, if these pieces of wisdom have been able to last through the countless twists and turns of History for so long, they are probably, at the very least, worth something. By no way is this a perfect solution (I don't believe I'll ever find one), but it might just make my life a little more hygge. 

I am a serial Post-It user with a poet's heart and a logician's mind. If I am not busy trying to (pointlessly) perfect the art of juggling a million contradictory ideas at the same time, you can ... Show More

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