Everything exists along a spectrum. Light. Knowledge. Truth. Fear. Love. Right. Wrong. Hate. Extroversion. Introversion. Everything, even Certainty, is as flexible as a rubber band. And, like a rubber band, certainty can become brittle over time; it can snap when stretched toward what once was its zone of ease and comfort.
Like certainty, absolutes—if they exist—exist along a spectrum. That is to say reality is flexible. Reality is contextual. Reality is, in other words, an illusion defined by reflections in mirrors stationed to reveal different perspectives from different angles.
I write all of this as a preface to my epiphany: introspection, too, can be as shallow as a puddle after a passing rain shower or as deep as the deepest part of the Pacific Ocean. Though that incredibly broad spectrum of introspection might suggest self-knowledge runs from cursory to excruciatingly detailed, I suggest otherwise: introspection, regardless of depth, reveals deep truths. Those truths, though, are flexible and they bend like light. They are viewed—no matter how shallow or deep—through a contextual prism.
Circumstances—also known as context—often dictate the degree to which any given motivator in one’s life takes control. Now, imagine that the spectra of all the influences on one’s life imitate the spectrum of light; all the colors from white to black. If one pauses long enough to carefully examine the spectra involved in that motivator (e.g., knowledge, truth, fear, love, etc.), the imagined colors constitute a constantly changing kaleidoscope twirling at high speed. Every influence contributes to that psychedelic rainbow. Certain colors, though, assume supremacy; purples or yellows or reds or greens assert themselves. Their context, the circumstances surrounding them, gives them greater influence than the other colors. But only within the context of all the other colors bouncing off the prism’s faces. So, too, is it with introspection.
Willful introspection sometimes fails to reflect reality; it hits the surface of a prism covered with an opaque layer. So, reality gives way to an illusion that may or may not have any bearing on reality. But that illusion may influence one’s perceptions of other aspects of reality. And so begins an utterly artificial examination that reveals only distortions. Valid introspection takes place only through unplanned response to one’s reactions to circumstance. It is that unrehearsed, unplanned, unintentional response that carries one along the full spectrum of introspection. All the way from the shallow puddle to the Challenger Deep. Every point along that spectrum holds a mirror that reflects reality at that instant, from the surface to the most deeply hidden core. Some of the images in those mirrors are innocuous. Some are flattering. Some are disturbing. And some are so terrifying the mind collapses, replacing images with darkness.
Every other influence—Knowledge. Truth. Fear. Love. Right. Wrong. Hate. Extroversion. Certainty, etc.—functions in the same way. And every one of them is influenced in some way by the rest of them. The complexity of the environment in which introversion attempts to conduct its task of self-knowledge is daunting. Our minds are too elaborately convoluted for us to ever know ourselves. Introversion sometimes seems a useless tool that solves nothing, yet reveals more questions and greater uncertainty.
All of this convoluted stream of consciousness drivel about introspection is ego-driven and oriented to self. The impossibility of understanding one’s self should be enough to short-circuit the mind, causing synapses to spark and sizzle as the current exceeds their capacity to carry it. And it is enough. But we add to the confused mental meltdown our attempts to understand others’ similarly complex and convoluted minds. Our efforts to understand other people are colored by our assumptions about them and about ourselves. Our conclusions about others’ motives, reasons, or intentions rely on interpretations of reality through clouded prisms.
None of this leads me to any insights. Only to confusion and a sense that it’s just as pointless to try to understand myself as to understand others. The only unbending reality is that my attempts at both will always fail. My efforts will yield unreliable results. Therefore, any actions I take based on the results of my attempts might as well be taken at random, without attempting to “know” anything. This is how prismatic introspective thinking ends up; a mass of words wadded into a ball and covered with glue and wax in a futile effort to make them stick together in some fashion.