On the Interior Life

Plato was definitely onto something when he made the distinction between the world of appearances and the world of Forms. I am going to use that distinction as a marker to differentiate the interior and the exterior in terms of our culture today.  The world of the Forms is where the true substance lies, while the world of appearances is what we see reflected on this earth–shiny, new, appealing, trendy objects. Their value is determined by the appeal they bring. We can see this world of appearances through society’s constant emphasis on the outer, whether we see it on social media or on the street. But there’s much more than meets the eye.  We can perhaps consider the Forms as substances that can only be found in the interior life. 

Our society today seems much too preoccupied with the world of appearance.  Many women are obsessed with their looks, and they spend much time and money working on their physical appearance. But there’s only so much you can do to enhance your outer appearance, and only so much to look “younger.”  There’s a limit to the outer but there’s no limit to the inner life. The inner life is rich with potentiality, and with mysteries waiting to be explored. Why is the inner life not emphasized enough? There may be many reasons, but I think part of it is tied what Blaise Pascal noted, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”  We are constantly surrounded by notifications and dings, and noises coming from all directions. It takes intentionality to have quiet and reflection.

While I like to look my best and enjoy dressing up in fabulous outfits, I find that I retreat into my interior life a lot of the time. There I find refuge from the world of appearances, which can be loud and deafening.  I hunger for depth, for moments of quiet where I can recalibrate without input from the glossy marketing of the world of appearances. I need to regularly get in touch with who I really am inside—my thoughts, my feelings, my sensitivities. 

Focusing too much on the exterior leaves me feeling like I am missing something.  As much as I love fashion and shopping, my face lights up when I am learning and being enlightened. As Ecclesiastes states: “How wonderful to be wise, to analyze and interpret things. Wisdom lights up a person’s face, softening its harshness.”  I can spend hours reading, studying and writing and that brings me much fulfillment.  As a natural contemplative, I recall reading books like the Imitation of Christ and resonating with the quiet, reflective tones of the book. Books such as those bring such a stillness to my soul that I cannot find anywhere else. 

I understand that not everyone is suited to the intellectual life, but everyone can benefit from focusing more on the inner life: such as learning, personal growth and spirituality.  These things can bring immense value to everyone, no matter your background or age.  Even taking a solitary walk can be good for one’s soul (whether you walk in silence or listen to calming music or an inspiring podcast or book). I believe that the more we seek to nurture our inner lives, the calmer and more at ease we will be.  I have my deterrents to help stop the constant emphasis on appearances, and it brings balance to my life.  I have started to be more intentional on who I follow on social media.  My desire through my own life (and this blog) is to inspire others beyond the world of appearance to seek the blessings that the interior life can bring.  

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