2 min read

Ask Yourself First

Choosing to ask ourselves these questions instead of seeking an immediate answer is difficult, but I find it to be a worthwhile exercise.
Ask Yourself First

It's easier to do what's easy, but that doesn't mean it's advisable.

With the ease and speed of a Google search it's easy to find an answer or latch onto an opinion, but I encourage you to ask yourself first.

  • What do I think the answer is?
  • How do I feel about whatever it is I’m looking for an answer to?
  • What would happen if I sat with this question for a while?

It’s a bit of a mundane example, but last night I was reading Ralph Waldo Emerson's Nature essay. He writes with beautiful prose. Though it’s not always easy to decipher. He ends Chapter IV of Nature writing:

That which was unconscious truth, becomes, when interpreted and defined in an object, a part of the domain of knowledge, — a new weapon in the magazine of power.

When I read that I thought, "Wow!". It struck me even though I didn't understand it. My first reaction was to Google what it meant, and, if I was lucky, to find a discussion board with varying opinions on what Emerson may have meant by this.

But here's the thing, how I interpret and experience this quote is the only thing that matters, so why not ask myself first:

  • Why did this strike me?
  • What do I interpret Emerson to mean here?
  • If I return to this passage tomorrow, how might it read differently then?

Choosing to ask ourselves these questions instead of seeking an immediate answer is difficult, but I find it to be a worthwhile exercise. More than anything, it allows us to expand our ability to think critically. It allows us to bring curiosity to all we interact with in the world instead of always looking for immediate answers from people we don't know.

Sitting with the quote above, re-reading it many times over, and asking myself the questions above proved far more insightful than any external answer could have done.

I was planning to share my interpretation of the above quote here but that would go against much of what I’ve just written.

If the quote speaks to you or piques your curiosity, consider asking yourself first what it means.

Oftentimes we know the answer to many of the questions we ask and our original answer can often be the most suitable for us, especially when we’re exploring how we view the world and what wisdom traditions or philosophical ideas might work for us (or not).

As Ralph Waldo Emerson would say:

Trust thyself.