Engaging with the self-evident

A simple strategy for unearthing insight: dig down until you find something that is considered self-evident, either by yourself or others, then challenge it. Find the things that are accepted without question, then interrogate them. 

For example, for most, it is self-evident that humanity should perpetuate itself. But to continue existing, humanity needs a habitat. Thus, we try to protect the environment. But these efforts to save Earth from our destructive touch are only undertaken out of self-interest. We want to preserve the Earth so that we can live on it, not because we care about the Earth itself. If we truly cared about the planet, we might come to the conclusion that it is better off without us. Then what? Do we migrate from Earth? Do we sacrifice ourselves by initiating our own extinction?

That’s a big example of something that is self-evident. Smaller examples exist. Family is one. In Western culture blood ties are somewhat sacred. What if they’re irrelevant? Why should it be unusual for you to leave your family completely and utterly in the past as soon as you attain adulthood and self-sufficiency? Child-birth is another self-evident belief. So you can have kids, but should you? What gives you the right to decide to create another human and expose them to the rollercoaster of pain and suffering that is existence?

The things we believe without question are elements of our mind that have a profound impact on how we shape our selves and how our selves choose to try and shape the world. So perhaps, instead of persisting in ignoring these unquestioned elements, we should shine a light on them and try to untangle the impact they’re having on us and others. Perhaps we should engage deliberately with the self-evident, instead of giving it a wide berth?