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The Examined Life

I’ve been a student of philosophy all of my life. I fell in love with the discipline the very moment I read the Socratic adage, “An unexamined life is not worth living!” What Socrates meant is that for life to be authentic, to be lived well, and to be one of integrity and honesty, it has to be questioned, challenged, and confronted head-on, without false pretense or illusion.


With age and experience, I’ve come to realize that the examined life is not a one-time affair. It isn’t a permanent condition, a fixed state, or an unchanging point of view. Occasional reflection or casual meditation is not a sufficient method of dealing with the booming, buzzing confusion that we call life.


In life, as they say, “stuff happens.” We are constantly confronted with unexpected change, crippling mistakes, unanticipated maladies, and mischievous miscalculations. The reality is, no matter how well-prepared (or, well-examined) we think we are, life can challenge us, change us, and make cowards and fools of us all.


The examined life is a process, not a static phenomenon. As the facts, data, and experiences in life evolve and change, we too must evolve, reconsider, reanalyze and, when necessary, reconfigure our beliefs, standards, and affiliations.


Life continuously confronts us with challenges and questions, but it rarely offers us easy answers. Living the examined life is simple to state, but difficult to master. We try, try again, fail again, and keep trying. To paraphrase the words of Aldous Huxley: Wisdom – or the examined life – is not just what happens to a person. It is what a person does with what happens to them.

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