Is the Unexamined Life Worth Living?

Many people live full rich lives without ever once stopping to think about what they are doing or how they are doing it. Of course, if people continually make the same disastrous mistakes, such as falling in love with abusive mates or giving in to addictions, a bit of self-examination is necessary to keep from repeating those mistakes, but for the most part, people muddle along, doing the best they can.

Sometimes, the examined life is not worth living — well, that’s not exactly true. The examined life is worth living, as are detectivemost lives, but sometimes the examination becomes the life itself, as often happens with me, and it’s necessary to step back and simply live without examination. (Or do I mean live simply without examination?)

Some of the greatest moments of life are unexaminable and incomprehensible, such as falling in love or fallling in grief — for the most part, you have to experience these moments raw, Afterward, of course, those of us with a philosophical bent try to make sense of what we experienced, but if we dissect these moments too soon, they fall into nothingness, like the scientists who try to dissect life itself, breaking life into smaller and smaller particles until the particles become waves and the waves become . . . nothing. And yet we know we are something. Or at least we think we know.

I’ve been blogging daily for almost two years now, and often I look to myself, my thoughts, my life for blog topics, holding up pieces of my life and examining them to see where I am and where I am going. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been taking a break from this introspection and dissection of my life by posting a series of articles about creating incredible but credible characters. (The articles were previously published in Novel Writing Tips and Techniques From Authors Of Second Wind Publishing.)

I still don’t know what I’m doing or where I’m going now that I’m alone. I’m still haunted by the hard questions such as the meaning of death and the scope of eternity. (I’ve given up trying to figure out the meaning of life, or rather, I’ve come to the conclusion we create our own meaning.) Novelist Anatole France wrote, “We do not know what to do with this short life, yet we want another which will be eternal.” Eternity is too much for my poor human brain to handle, as are so many of the unanswerable questions of life, so it’s been refreshing not to feel the need to think, but to do things just for the sake of doing them. It’s been refreshing not to analyze what’s left of my grief process, but to ride the swells of sadness and then move on.

It’s been refreshing just to be.

So yes, the unexamined life is definitely worth living, at least temporarily.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

3 Responses to “Is the Unexamined Life Worth Living?”

  1. CJ Says:

    Very deep line of thinking goes here. I am a very introspective person. I suppose my Catholic upbringing and the duty to examine & follow conscience would be the reason I have always been that way. Yes, indeed some of the rough tides of our lives are difficult to dissect and examine. But if one is to make their way through the pathways of life with the hope of getting to their intended destination (goals) intact and in success, it is vital to do this examining of the paths which we have traversed, especially if we got a bit lost along the way.This instills the lessons and wisdom of personal accountability when we own our parts in the things that failed…to be humbled by our own mistakes is the way we learn and is the awesome tool by which we can master the road ahead.

  2. Carol Ann Hoel Says:

    My life is a hodgepodge of happenings that defies examination. I like to believe that it all matters and it will all make sense someday. If we never examine ourselves, we may live carelessly; if we examine ourselves too much, we may sink in rivers of regret or become fearful of the future. I guess a little introspection may help at times. I have embraced a life of trusting in Jesus, my Savior. Whatever I mess up, he will fix. I know that not everyone sees living life that way as beneficial or acceptable. I do. It’s a joy when I rest in Him, believing that it will all work out for the best. And, yes, during times of trial and difficulty, I bleed like everyone, and I don’t like it. I like your decision to ride the swells of sadness and then move on. It works. Blessings to you, Pat…

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