Excerpt from Readers' Circle Essay, “Self Knowledge,” by David Whyte:
Self-knowledge is not fully possible for human beings. We do not reside in a body, a mind or a world where it is achievable or from the point of being interesting, even desirable. Half of what lies in the heart and mind is potentiality, resides in the darkness of the unspoken and unarticulated and has not yet come into being: this hidden unspoken half will supplant and subvert any present understandings we have about ourselves. Human beings are a frontier between what is known and what is not known. The act of turning any part of the unknown into the known is simply an invitation for an equal measure of the unknown to flow in and reestablish that frontier: to reassert both the exterior and interior horizon of an individual life; to make us what we are—that is—a moving edge between what we know about ourselves and what we are about to become. What we are actually about to become or are afraid of becoming always trumps and rules over what we think we are already.
The hope that a human being can achieve complete honesty and self-knowledge with regard to themselves is a fiction and a chimera, the jargon and goals of a corporate educational system brought to bear on the depths of an identity where the writ of organizing language cannot run. Self-knowledge includes the understanding that the self we want to know is about to disappear.
What we can understand is the way we occupy this frontier between the known and the unknown, the way we hold the conversation of life, the sense of the way our body occupies that edge, but a detailed audit of the self is not possible and diminishes us in the attempt to establish it; we are made on a grander scale, half afraid of ourselves, half in love with the dance of immensities beyond any name we can give…
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