Wednesday, August 31, 2016

On Self-Knowledge and Contradictory Traits

So I took that self-knowledge questionnaire a lot of my friends have been doing lately. The results were interesting and relatively insightful. 


You like clarity and intelligent simplicity and you get frustrated at messy thinking. This can make you seem unreasonably pushy to some, but it is actually a virtue: you are motivated by a horror at pointless effort and a longing for precision and insight into how things and people work. Your ability to synthesise and bring order is essential in producing thinking which is truly helpful.

You don’t set out to be different for its own sake; you are more easily guided by what interests and moves you. You are more concerned about what is right for you than about the pressure to fit in. In sex you are more aware than others of impulses which are not entirely conventional. You know the value of selective irresponsibility, of forgetting occasionally about being ‘good’.

You are good at seeing what’s funny, at relaxing and finding the pleasure of the moment. Play is random, whimsical, fantasy-driven behaviour which releases internal tension. Because it is detached from some pressures it allows you to act on weirder, perhaps neglected, parts of yourself. The downside is that it is no help in sticking with things that are not much fun but which need to be addressed. So it is well complemented by its opposite, Stoicism.


I find it interesting that two of my most dominant traits almost contradict one another. Almost. I've always been this odd mix of rational/logic-oriented and playful/imaginative. People that don't know me well almost always know of one of those sides to my personality or the other, but not necessarily both. It's almost always the rational side, as people will notice I'm smart or detail-oriented long before they ever see the side of me that far prefers playing, joking, and laughing to working and being serious about things. I love facts, learning, and reasoning but am completely uninterested in really applying those interests in a practical way that isn't also "fun".

The only time you see both traits at the same time is in my creative work. I remember teachers I had when I was a kid commenting on how unusual a combination it was. For instance, other kids I knew would write stories about the Care Bears that followed the actual imaginary characters through imaginary events taking place in their actual imaginary world. I'd write a story where I imagined my actual stuffed Care Bear toys being sentient and going through the experience of being laundered in the washing machine, spin cycle and all. I'd make what appeared to be elaborate fantasy paintings that had to have come straight out of my child's imagination without any rhyme or reason to them, but if asked, I'd be able to explain how each little inclusion was actually symbolic of some abstract concept. 

On a somewhat related note, I personally wish we lived in a world where society makes room for playfulness and rationality in equal measure. Too often, people want to separate an artist's creativity from the random nature that makes that creativity possible in the first place... or they want to separate a thinker's genius from the eccentricity that inspires them to think outside the box. It just doesn't work like that. It'a package deal. You want one, you have to take everything that comes along with it.