Don’t know thyself too well

In a New York Times op-ed, David Brooks talks about the world of distractions we live in, our inability to say no to them despite lots of scolding, and what to do about it. He suggests following our passions, the things that absorb us. He quotes child psychologist Adam Phillips:

You can only recover your appetite, and appetites, if you can allow yourself to be unknown to yourself. Because the point of knowing oneself is to contain one’s anxieties about appetite.

This goes against what we are often told, which is that we should get to know ourselves. Instead, Brooks (through Phillips) suggests that we should look outside ourselves. Instead of asking, “Who am I? What do I want?” we could ask, “What delights me? What am I interested in?” And even more worthwhile would be to get together with others and talk about these things. As Brooks has it, “the free digression of conversation will provide occasions in which people are surprised by their own minds.”

Feeling overwhelmed by distractions? Whether this is the right solution, it’s certainly one that sounds like fun. Finding the things that absorb you is a good way to live. Find places where you can play with what delights you, and where you can try out new things to see if they might. is a great place to start. Find yourself a joy, and a community that shares that joy.