KNOW SOME OF THYSELF
I’m very conservative in Norway. I always do the same things. Go for a mean slope to climb in the morning – after coffee – take a swim in a mean, cold lake afterwards, get a massage at 5 – today done by a 2-meter tall Dutch man with small but very powerful and warm hands – and then walk through a mean forest at dusk. Now, some would say that this routine resembles being on the path to enlightenment, but I’m not interested in following the Greek Apollonian dictum: “know thyself,” as that leads to a highly developed state of solipsism. Knowing thyself means connecting to yourself alone, and forgetting about the others. But nor am I interested in the Dionysian, cosmic thing, which dictates that in order to get in touch with the higher powers you have to empty your mind first. While I find this alluring, let’s face it, it cannot do: a woman, AD 2009, cannot afford to do that, not know herself, at least some of the time if not all the time, as not knowing herself equals believing that men are born into this world to rule over women, and some other such stupidity. Yes, I know, I would have made a smashingly good epistemologist if I didn’t think that all those interested in theories of knowledge acquisition and philosophy of the mind don’t miss the point all the time, which makes studying these fields according to the book soooo boring. Usually things are much simpler than we think: while knowing ourselves means making recourse to explicit causal relations (according to developmental psychologists and others) the opposite, not knowing ourselves, operates with implicit causal models for ways of knowing (according to the “theory theory” philosophers). (On this, I recommend Alison Gopnik’s book: The Philosophical Baby.) While in the first situation we get to develop our ability to focus, in the latter, we go with the surface and tend to perceive everything. Focus creates a sense of distinction; wide perception enhances play. So what does a smart woman do to avoid misunderstanding of her routines as narrow-minded? Go for the middle ground, for everything and nothing at once, for both this and that, for knowing and not knowing. Therein lies the secret to not doubting herself, and thus avoiding doing something really dumb only so that she can be reassured.