Last week, my students engaged in a conversation about wisdom, and one claimed that wisdom makes people sad. The implications of her point aside (for this post), I reminded her of the goals of the early philosophical schools, which aimed to increase the quality of one's lived life (see Hadot). Similarly, a Chinese adage advises: do more by doing less. I think that if we learn our lessons in life, while we will never become absolved of problems, our way of dealing with them will improve.
Gadamer writes of "recognition" - that we go through life in search of those symbols that elicit the permanent from the transient (like the themes in a good movie we watch again and again to remind ourselves of certain truths). He explains recognition is how we "make ourselves at home in the world." It happens when we get to know something we're already familiar with more authentically. To demonstrate what he means, he uses the example of tessera hospitalis: an object was split in half by a host, who would give one half to their guest. If they were to meet again, they would rejoin the two halved objects.
I think that recognition precisely must work through others: that there is no recognition without other people as the medium, our missing halves, if you will.
Part of our wisdom lies in others in the sense that others will either remind us to exercise wisdom, or test us through their carelessness, or acedia.
So, there can be a looking to others in order to recognise oneself: either as who one wants to be, or in terms of what one needs to work on to become better. It is a two-sided mirror, always in flux.
And where better to see this dance of relationships transpire for analysis than the theatre, which the ancient Greeks understood well. They attempted to resolve the enigma of our existence through myths that represent aspects of our world: death, love, catastrophe, jubilation, perplexity, kindness... To quote Gadamer, those myths "remain real for us because we too can still be dismayed by a sudden transformation in the appearance of things - one event can change everything at a stroke."
Which means that when we look to others for recognition, there will be times when the outward appearance is only our mirror insofar as it helps us realise what is worth recognising about ourselves or this transient life. To quote the sufi poets: Whether your destiny is glory or disgrace, purify yourself of hatred and love of self. And another fragment, We are as pieces of chess engaged in victory and defeat: our victory and defeat is from Thee, other whose qualities are comely!... We are lions, but lions on a banner: because of the wind they are rushing onward from moment to moment.
Amongst such flux, hopefully hammering the character into shape, They appear in the world, to dive deep into that ocean, to gather pearls. Pearls of recognition...

Elements: stripy paper, sequins, doily: pugly pixel;
retro ticket: Just Something I Made.

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