I watched this RSA animate video the other day highlighting the ideas of philosopher Roman Krznaric.
I had never heard of Krznaric before and found out that “He is a founding faculty member of The School of Life in London, which offers instruction and inspiration on the important questions of everyday life, and advises organisations including Oxfam and the United Nations on using empathy and conversation to create social change.” according to his website.
I enjoyed the RSA animate not only because of it’s use of ideas inspired from Star Trek (total Trekkie in case you hadn’t noticed) but because it defines and vocalizes something which I have always sort-of suspected and felt but never really put to words myself.
Read any spiritual primer, whether that is anchored in New Age-ism, traditionally based in religion, self-help, psychology and the usual call has always been to “Look within”.
In all honesty, after having to sit in in group therapy sessions while working as a spiritual caregiver in a trauma unit, or hanging out with a bunch of narcissistic yogis, “look within” usually translates into excessive navel-gazing or someone using spirituality to be an out-and-out attention whore. It’s not that I have any discomfort doing so, but somehow, there’s a limit. Go over that limit, and it all suddenly feels heavy, dark, insipid, like you’re wallowing in quick sand, either your’s or someone else’s.
On the other hand, I actually learn far more about myself and the world by getting out there in the world itself. All those little details which makes different cultures and places unique, the kind of stuff you can’t get out of a Lonely Planet travel guide, how you react when you’re confronted with the mysterious “Other”, how you deal with things which are diametrically different from what you’re used to, in my experience has taught me far more about myself than any book from Eckhart Tolle.
The RSA animate cites George Orwell as an example, how he came from a privileged background but went out tramping in order to understand British society and the lives of people living in the margins of society and how it ended up enriching his life in so many ways afterwards, most importantly, in increasing his empathy towards others.
I’m not advocating that people go out and become tramps, but it reminds me of that character Larry Darrel in W. Somerset Maugham’s fantastic book, “The Razor’s Edge”, how Larry turned his back on a life of assured privilege in Chicago to go loaf about the world and find meaning in life that way.
Outrospection also solidifies another argument for me; far too many spiritual “teachers” have cut short the wanderlust of far too many spiritual seekers, claiming that they are trying to escape from their responsibilities, problems and present life, without truly understanding that it may actually be a part of their personhood that they learn best by going out there and doing and exploring (There are many who do use travel as escapism, but it’s not the case for everyone).
I say figure out what resonates best with you, introspection or outrospection and then run with it.