the person we’ve all been

Not to know yourself is dangerous, to that self and to others. Those who destroy, who cause great suffering, kill off some portion of themselves first, or hide from the knowledge of their acts and from their own emotion, and their internal landscape fills with partitions, caves, minefields, blank spots, pit traps, and more, a landscape turned against itself, a landscape that does not know itself, a landscape through which they may not travel….

You see it too in the small acts of everyday life, of the person who feels perfectly justified, of the person who doesn’t know he’s just committed harm, of the person who says something whose motives are clear to everyone but her, of the person who comes up with intricate rationales or just remains oblivious, of the person we’ve all been at one time or other….

Many of the great humanitarian and environmental campaigns of our time have been to make the unknown real, the invisible visible, to bring the faraway near, so that the suffering of sweatshop workers, torture victims, beaten children, even the destruction of other species and remote places, impinges on our imagination and perhaps prompts you to act.

– Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby

2 thoughts on “the person we’ve all been”

  1. I’ve been reflecting recently on cognitive dissonance, the ways that I may be consistently operating out of cognitive dissonance in order to function, and the cost/consequences I am paying mentally/spiritually/psychologically for allowing myself to function in this way. Would you call what Solnit speaks about, cognitive dissonance? (Ie. I drive 45 minutes to work – in a very fuel efficient car, but still using fossil fuels – when we desperately need to be using renewables.)

    1. I think cognitive dissonance would be when you operate at a somewhat higher level of awareness than Solnit was describing. If you’re aware of the dissonance, then you are accepting some of the tension of knowing yourself. It’s hard to stay there for long. If you’re consciously processing options about alternatives to that 45 min carbon-based commute, it might help you to stay in that dissonance long enough to find a better way?

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