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Thoughts Over a Cup of Coffee

Photo by Ivan Obolensky

The physicist Max Planck said, “Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are a part of the mystery that we are trying to solve.”

This is a paradox that invites some consideration.

As an illustration, if I draw a circle, not only do I bring into existence what is inside the circle, but also that which surrounds it. The circle, if it was alive, might be able to interact with its surroundings by moving through the space it inhabits and in doing so, form impressions, but can the circle see inside itself to know itself? It cannot. Why? Because a boundary must exist between the circle and the thing it wishes to know about, else that other thing wouldn’t be separate and thus observable or knowable.

Yes, that thought takes a few moments to take in, but in that conundrum lies the paradox of living. Like the circle moving through its surrounding void, we find out about ourselves through what we do and the reactions of our environment and others to us. Little by little, we become aware of our capabilities and gather a concept of ourselves. We realize we can be whatever or whoever we wish, and that is fair, but only through other’s reactions to our actions will we know that our concept of ourselves is true, and therein lies the problem. Who we think we are and how we live are not the same. There are discrepancies. The face in the mirror looking back is not the same as the one looking in.

Having lived some years, I can say that my most profound realizations about myself came about not by knowing who I was but by realizing who I was not. It was through those understandings that I’ve come to know better who I really am and to be at peace with myself and the world.

When one discards all one isn’t, one begins to approximate who one really is.

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