Tuesday, June 27, 2017

10 Great Ways to Know Thyself

"Know Thyself and you shall know all the mysteries of the gods and the Universe" 

Inscription in a Greek temple at Delphi.

The Seed (Detail) Oil on canvas 48" x 48" by Patrick McGrath Muñiz

Art is a path towards Self-Knowledge. 21 years ago I started a drawing journal. In it I intended to draw every day. "Nulla Dies Sine Linea" (Not a day without a line).The purpose of it, besides getting better at drawing was to understand myself and how my creative mind worked. Some years were very productive and inspiring, others were very conflictive and even silent. What I've learned so far by doing this, is the more I look into myself, the more questions I had about who I was and why I did Art. Without knowing it, I was taking the "humanist approach" to knowing myself.  I recently posted the following thought on my Facebook account: "To be original is to be yourself, to be yourself is to know thyself. To know thyself, you can start off with a DNA test and digging into your own past".  This is the "dataist approach" to knowing thyself, not to be confused with dadaist. A dataists seeks answers to important questions in Big Data. 

Surviving Doomsday 2012 (Detail) Oil and metal leaf on panel by Patrick McGrath Muñiz

The Humanist approach to knowing thyself:

Since the European Renaissance and scientific revolution, humanity has gradually shifted its world view from an all encompassing monotheist world view to a scientific, anthropocentric and individualist world view. If you've ever been adviced to "Follow your bliss" "Listen to your heart" "Customer knows best" "Find your own inner voice", these all derive from the humanist doctrine that we've grown so accustomed to in "Free" Western Societies. Modern humanism tells us that the most important things happen inside each one of us, namely, "feelings" and that in order to know these "feelings", one must keep a private diary, have heart to heart conversations with a friend, go to a park and be by yourself, go to a museum, be inspired, read a book you like, buy what makes you happy. No one can know you better than yourself and these are some of the things that can help you.

Prometheus, the Awakener returns. Oil on canvas 36" x 57" by Patrick McGrath Muñiz

The Dataist approach to knowing thyself:

As we enter a new age, with the rise of genetics and computer technology, our understanding of who we are and where we come from has been revolutionized. With highly sophisticated ever evolving algorithms, advanced computer processing, biotechnology and AI improving at an exponential rate, it has become much easier to predict and define who we are as human beings, from a Data point of view at least.  All our vital records can be understood as algorithms and big data. If we have a Facebook account, shop at Amazon,, read online news, google images, chances are we've already been deeply analyzed and studied. The more time I spend on the internet, the more I'm surprised by how much information they have on me. The advertisement has become so incredibly more spot on with my interests, it is even scary for a moment. They are getting very good at this in a very short period of time. While the humanist declared "Listen to your feelings!", the dataist declares "Listen to the algorithms, data knows your feelings".

Pasithea. Oil on canvas 20" x 24" by Patrick McGrath Muñiz

Based on these models, I propose combining both and taking a Humanist/Dataist approach to knowing thyself and here are a few things you can do to get started:

1. Get yourself a DNA test done. If possible, also get your parents to get this test done. You'll be surprised about how much hidden information there is about yourself and your family.  I just used 23&me but Ancestry.com and Nat Geno 2.0 work fine. The results from my DNA test not only gave me exact percentages of my regional ancestry, it also went into inherited health conditions and traits.  Further medical exams could facilitate even more information. Gather as much biometric information about yourself as you can afford.  Your health and wellbeing is worth every penny and being able to identify everything you can about your body is just priceless. Also, be prepared to have Identity perception is forever changed. Finding out I had Native American ancestry led me to find who my 6th great grandmother was and it simply blew my mind. 

Partial view of my 23&me ancestry report. If you upload the Raw Data onto Gedmatch.com, you'll find even more surprising facts about your ancestry.

2. Start a Genealogical tree. Once you have a DNA test done, you can start digging deeper  into the past and discovering who your ancestors were. It doesn't matter how far back you can trace your past. Every little bit of information is of great value and can enlighten your understanding of your origins. There are plenty of good websites that can help you with that. Ancestry.com is one of the best but you have to pay. I'm using familysearch.org. It's fee and I was able to trace one of my family lines back to Normandy 986 AD. Now that I know a good deal about who my immediate ancestors are, not to mention a few that go way back, my perception and appreciation of world history and of this country is forever changed. Owning a part of world history makes it even more personal.

A view of my family tree on FamilySearch.org. It takes time but many records can be found and if you have family background from the U.S. you would be surprised as to how much info is out there.

3. Read your history.  I grew up in Puerto Rico so learning about the the island's history,  politics, culture and society  helps me understand my current beliefs, political views and world view. Wether we are aware of it or not, we are all influenced by our culture, the people around us and the country we live in. We either react against it or embrace it. It is better to know the history of all these things in order to better understand ourselves and the way we respond to the outside world. Take some time to look at the bigger picture. In a time of mass information, there is simply no excuse to be historically numb minded and ignorant of our past.

I find history books fascinating. Remember to take everything with a grain of salt and verify your sources.

4. Get yourself a detailed astrological chart. Even if you don't believe in astrology, I urge you to give this one a try. Most astrology skeptics base their judgments on Sunday paper Sun sign astrology. This kind of popular culture astrology is oversimplified for the masses extremely flawed. No wonder why astrology gets so discredited. The kind of astrology I use is  based on the exact location and exact date of birth including hour and minute. By having all this information, your chart will provide you with the precise point of where were the planets, Moon and Sun in the sky at the time you were born, giving you not just your Sun sign, but also Ascendant and Moon sign. Along with all the other planetary degrees, this is a much detailed picture of who you are. I've done mine and can tell you, it is very accurate! Astro.com is a good website to start with and it's free. If you find it useful and insightful, you can dig deeper into this stuff with Kepler, a computer sofware that does all the astrological calculations for you.

Once I have my own chart Im able to view my current and future transits and there is plenty of information online that can help you interpret these. cafeastrology.com is good source.

5. Do the Briggs-Myers personality type test. This is a test developed in by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers based on the typological theories of Carl Jung. There are basically 16 personality types and you can find out what's yours by filling out an online questionnaire. This is not your Fun Facebook personality test. Those that tell you what Greek god are you, or what country is more like you, are a waste of time. There is more that one website to do this psychometric test so choose carefully and compare results. I have used 16personalities.com & humanmetrics.com Mbtionline.com is a paid version. These tests are fairly popular among the business community as they help them define and target  potential customers. This sort of information  helps me understand my social interactions and external responses. It also confirmed and amazingly validated my astrological chart.

There are a few good free personality tests that online. 16personalities.com is one of my favorites

6. Get a Tarot deck and do your own readings. Don't feel intimidated by the 78 cards in a Tarot deck. If you prefer, get a Lenormand or an oracle deck. These may be even easier to interpret. Even though I know the common meaning for each card, I will often go more intuitive with the reading and try to stay away from future divination readings and focus on present day context questions.A good website to start learning from biddytarot.com. They also have insightful podcasts and utube videos. I do readings every morning  in silence and in contemplative introspection, Along with prayer and meditation, this simple exercise helps me find inner peace. Projecting and interpreting meaning on to images is like placing a mirror to your own soul . If you like, you can document each reading.

The Golden Tarot by Kat Black

7. Start an audio blog. Whenever you have a chance alone in the day, take a few minutes to start an audio blog. Talk to yourself and record on your phone. For me this usually takes 20 minutes once or twice a week. This is like talking to yourself but with the advantage that you can replay and listen to your own voice and pay close attention to what you're saying. Often we forget to listen to what we are actually saying and when we do, that's when the OMG moment happens. You realize as you listen to your monologue, that there many things you seldom express to others that didn't even suspect about yourself. It's like going outside of yourself for a moment and being the other person listening. Do you like what you hear? What are your impressions? Is this really you speaking your mind? 

Most phones should already have a recording app

8. A personal journal. Yes, this could not be left out of the list of course. But I would take it a step forward and document the whole process by video or photos. Consider scanning and digitizing your journal. Look at your handwriting, your drawings, your thoughts, your dreams. Which ones are the most intriguing? Which ones ring truer than the rest? What can be improved? If you've been doing this for some time like I have : What has been consistent throughout all these years? There is much to be learned about ourselves  and it is one of the best ways to open your creative channels.

One of my drawing journals

9. Make a movie/music/book list. If you would have to watch 10 movies again, which ones would you definitely choose? Do that! Watch your  top 10 favorite movies of all time, one each day for 10 days. Than ask yourself: What all these films have in common? Is there a recurring theme? Do they share similar values? How do all of these stories end? Believe it or not, this speaks volumes about you. What are your 10 favorite songs of all time?  Make a playlist and listen to them one after another. If you're like me then it's a playlist of 101. What kind of music is predominant in this list? Are they sad or happy? Are they hopeful or gloomy? If you were stranded in a desert island, what  books would you bring with you? Why? You can write down these lists in your personal journal. It is amazing how much the things you love describe you and your vision of the world.

Most of the music I listen to often triggers back childhood or more recent memories. 

10. Get in touch with Nature. In the information age when most people are glued to their mobile devices it's very easy to lose sight of where we all really come from and how much we are subject to our animal instincts of fear and domination. Most people ignore their natural surroundings and devote all of their attention to an artificial world, one which holds on to an inter subjective reality and collective fictions. We forget our days in the African Savannah as early hunter gatherers. Our talent for prehistoric amnesia is quite unforgiving specially when you look at what we are doing to the planet's environment and every living being in it. We live in the Age of the Antropocene and it did not start with the Industrial age. It started more than 10,000 years ago when we started burning the forests and wiping out most of the planet's mega fauna into extinction. Take some time to go out and be more appreciative of the natural world. Without it , you wouldn't be here. Take some time to reflect on your own evolution and where we are headed as a species. Go beyond the personal. What can we do in our own lives to wake up and make a better world?

Me with my sister back in Puerto Rico, where we grew up during the 1980's.

We live in an age of rapid change and information overload so it is quite easy to feel overwhelmed. While many may opt to "go off the grid" and become "Invisible", this is not practical for many reasons. Global society and economy for better or worse has become irremediably intertwined with Information Technology and the Web.  So, why not be open to all advice and see what works best for yourself? Of course, I'm aware of how all this shared personal information can and will be shared among corporations and government, with an  nightmarish "1984" scenario in mind. That is why I prefer to keep some of my information as private as I can. Still I believe at this point the real benefits of sharing some of your information outweigh the risks. Since we are at a turning point in history where within a generation you can be sure, nothing will ever be the same, with no turning back, it seems like an appropriate time to embrace the future with data while holding on to some of the humanist values we cherish while we can. I say this even as I fear the obvious dystopian future scenario, We might as well make the best of it while it lasts. As the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurerius once said: "You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this and you will find strength"

Mirabile Futurum. Oil on canvas 16" x 20" by Patrick McGrath Muñiz

Hope you enjoyed this article. If you wish to see more of my artwork, please visit my new artist website at:www.patrickmcgrath-art.com. Stay tuned for more related articles that I'll be posting once a month on this blog. Take care and as always, thank you very much for your support!