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Socrates once stated: "The unexamined life is not worth living". Do you agree?

Well it's up to the reader's interpretation, but I think that this statement points out the uniqueness of the human kind due to its ability to investigate life and by that to investigate itself. Without an investigation of this kind (in any form of it) one's life turns out to be very similar to an animal's life, which basically focus on the effort to provide itself with the basic needs. Don't you think?

  • Feb 4 2014: what works for Socrates works for me. know thyself... examine!
  • Feb 2 2014: An examined life is worth dying for.
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    Jan 31 2014: Colleen raises an important point below. "Even when people are living a very simple life, meeting daily needs, putting food on the table, keeping their children warm and safe, honoring the elderly, etc., they often still explore, evaluate and contemplate life....don't you think?"

    Reflecting on ones actions, looking at what has passed and what may be to come and how one fits within it, is indeed a universal human trait rather than a practice of only an enlightened few.
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      Feb 2 2014: I agree Fritzie, and Uba D Tmar addresses this idea...
      "Socrates was asking this question to himself, and he's the only one who could answer this,' is it worth living'."

      We are the only one who can answer this question for ourselves, as it is about reflecting on, and evaluating our own personal thoughts, feelings, ideas, perceptions, perspectives, opinions and beliefs. There is no useful purpose in judging other's practices and evaluation of their lives.
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        Feb 2 2014: I agree with you that only an individual can decide whether the way he lives his life feels worthwhile or whether he could improve his life by making changes.

        My point was a different one, though. It is a universal trait, I believe, to reflect and evaluate, so the unexamined life does not even exist except in fiction, making the question somewhat moot. I believe it is a popular fiction that vast hordes of people simply live their lives by rote, as it were, without thinking or reflection. There is often much more to the stranger than others notice on superficial examination.
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          Feb 2 2014: Oh....I see your other point Fritzie:>)

          I think/feel that we all have the ability to reflect and evaluate, and people may do it on various levels. I observe some folks who do not do a very in-depth examination of the life experience.

          I agree....there is often much more to people than we realize, which is why it is not helpful to judge. I think that part of the reason for regrets for some people at the time of death, which I have observed, is that they realized that the life experience was over and they wish they had done this or that when there was more time. I believe that if there had been more evaluation during their life, regarding what was important, there might not have been regrets?

          I also observed people dying, who seemed to have evaluated their life in more depth and consciously chose how they wanted to live the life adventure. They seemed to be more content with the dying process, as they were more content with the living process.
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        Feb 2 2014: People do make choices that turn out not, perhaps, to have been the best choice, because they did not predict, or sometimes could not have predicted, the outcome of that action relative to a different one. Also, as my mother used to say, "one cannot sit with one behind in two places." By this she meant that sometimes one needs to forego one (possibly positive) experience in order to have another also positive.

        I think one can live and die with fewer regrets if one realizes one must often forego some good things to do others. The grass may have been greener on the other side or not actually.

        Some people surely spend more time considering and reconsider their actions, both before and after, than others. Some people are more inclined to careful planning and calculation and others more spontaneous, which may also vary according to the gravity of the choice or situation at hand.

        Some people, I suspect, think about their lives more than they would ever admit. Most probably examine some aspects of their lives with good clarity and other aspects they subconsciously do not examine closely or clearly.
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          Feb 2 2014: The kinds of things I observed Fritzie were not necessarily the choice of foregoing one experience in order to have another.

          The regrets that were expressed to me were things like.....I wish I had told my loved one how much I loved him/her....I wish I had treated him/her better....I wish I had spent more time with my know what I mean Fritzie?

          It didn't feel as much like choosing one activity over another. It felt more like the regret of HOW they lived each moment of the life experience.

          Again....I agree with you that people examine the life experience on many different levels.
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        Feb 2 2014: I am sure there are people who regret the way they spent time or what they said or didn't say. I really have never understood why people don't tell their loved ones that they love them. I don't understand it at all.

        In some cultural traditions there is a specific time of year or week in which people are supposed to reflect on the time interval just passed with a particular eye toward who they might have offended or short changed. They are then supposed to go say they are sorry and make amends in a way that is meaningful to the other person.
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          Feb 2 2014: I don't understand it either Fritzie, although I have heard it said that the loved one is SUPPOSED TO KNOW, so there is no reason to say it all the time. I don't agree with that!
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    • Feb 4 2014: Inspiring!!! is this a method that you developed by yourself?
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          Feb 5 2014: You are right! The term for these in the field of education is "graphic organizer." Many of us use them and give students practice in using different kinds and developing their own systems.
        • Feb 9 2014: Wow... I'm not sure I completely understood it but from what I managed to understand it seems amazing! Personally I consider high self-awareness as rare and unique trait. so I'm pretty sure that your model well indicates your unique personality :-) I would love to hear about your two other models.
  • Jan 31 2014: I think at first glance I would have to disagree with ol' Socrates on this one. I value introspection and have tried to come to know myself, but that is a far stretch from saying that those that don't take the time or are unable for whatever reason to examine their own lives as unworthy of life or their lives have no worth. Many if not most of the humans that have ever lived have struggled to survive at best and we would notbe here without them as we are all part of an unbroken web of life stretching back to whatever beginning "life" itself had. Maybe a tangent, but how much education is needed to truly examine your life. Or another tangent, do the lives of animals have worth if they are unable to examine their lives? I wonder what Socrates would think about it?
  • Feb 5 2014: I think the question is how deep of an examination is done.
    • Feb 9 2014: You are absolutely right! Everyone examines life in one way or another but a profound examination is totally different and highly insightful.
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    Feb 2 2014: i don't 100% agree because, Socrates was asking this question to himself, and he's the only one who could answer this,' is it worth living'.
    Biologically we are thinking beings, and we do alot of thinking and evaluating, it's automatic as we interact with our environment, otherwise we will not be here.
    Living depends on context, cisrcumstances and environment, whether it is worthy or not, life goes on.
    how can we measure the value 'worthyness'.it;s difficult, only the ends will justify the means. Like Fidel Castro's 'History will absolve me'
    alas, in the process of writing this i am engaging in evaluating, examining myself.
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    Jan 30 2014: I know of people who seldom think beyond daily needs , simply reacting to life. And they are busy with bring food on the table ,keeping their children warm and safe,honoring their own elderly parents.
    I hesitate and think who am i to judge their life is not worth living as one of mine?
    I could only say that not to think beyond basic needs is not for me.I enjoy exploring myself ,others and this world and couldn't imagine live without it. ;)
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      Jan 30 2014: Hi Amily!
      Even when people are living a very simple life, meeting daily needs, putting food on the table, keeping their children warm and safe, honoring the elderly, etc., they often still explore, evaluate and contemplate life....don't you think?

      Some of the folks I met, living very simply in very rural parts of our world, seemed more in tune with themselves and with nature, than some people who live a more complex life without evaluation.

      I wholeheartedly agree...I also enjoy exploring myself, others and our world, and cannot imagine life without that exploration:>)
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        Feb 5 2014: Hi Colleen!
        I do realise the fact thet many people getting the daily needs met explore and contemplate life.I was refering to some particular indivudals I have had conversation with and my overall understanding after questions to figure out what life is like for them is that they seldom think about or think for themselves.And they are living their lives. I mean, whatever I think of another man's life really does not matter.It doesn't increase or decrease any value of that person's life.

        No worries.I wasn't implying that you judge anyone.Just an extention to what the question might invlove.
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          Feb 6 2014: I agree Amily, that there are some folks who do not think for themselves, in favor of simply believing what someone tells them to believe, and that is a choice we all make for ourselves:>)

          I personally, would never give up the opportunity to ponder, evaluate, explore and make well informed choices and decisions:>)
    • Feb 4 2014: I wasn't trying to judge anyone, sorry if it sounded like that.
      I think that no matter who you are or where you from, you can wonder about life itself.
      You don't have to do it professionally (i.e academically or else), it can be done logically or philosophically without any means except fully functional human brain... :-)
      I hope i was better understood this time
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      Feb 6 2014: well, amily, if you believe we are all connected, if what every person does affects every other person, then maybe it is bad if someone doesn't examine their life, maybe their lack of examining diminishes your life and my life?
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        Feb 15 2014: Hi Greg,
        I find myself constantly apologize for not being able to reply in time.Thinking about getting more time to keep flow of conversations.

        Well it depends on what you mean by we are connected.How realistic it is for your life to be diminished when others out of whatever reasons don't exam life?1 person? 2? a thousand?i don't see the sense in that since we each person is responsible for his/her life instead of a enmeshed identity. But don't get me wrong that doesn't mean we are isolated selfish individuals that only cares about saying there is boundary and we can be empathetic,compassionate and help each other.However the premises is not you are me, me is you but you are you and I'm me.
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          Feb 17 2014: well, it's hard to know, amily, because I really don't meet people who don't examine their life. Who have you met who doesn't examine his or her life? What were the circumstances of your meeting him or her?

          I suppose that much of the time it might not affect you if other people weren't very aware. But then all of a sudden it could become very important. For example, if you were injured in a traffic accident and sitting by the side of the road, and all the people speeding past were people who didn't think very much, and when they saw you they didn't think to call for help for you, that could be bad?
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        Feb 17 2014: Greg. I volunteered some time in my last few year to visit some household in rural area and meet with people there with needs.They are house wives, the elderly. I can't say they all don't examine lives but a few people I met left me with the impression that they seldom think beyond basic needs.I might be wrong and it also has to do with how much retrospection you do is examining.

        "For example, if you were injured in a traffic accident and sitting by the side of the road, and all the people speeding past were people who didn't think very much, and when they saw you they didn't think to call for help for you, that could be bad? "

        Yes.That could leave the person out of help.
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          Feb 17 2014: What sort of needs did they have, amily? How might you explain that they didn't think beyond basic needs? Did it have anything to do with them being in a rural area, or was it something else?
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        Feb 21 2014: They are in remote rural area with limited resources and opportunities.Well, I had talked with them and asked questions,trying to get an idea of what their lives are like for them and I was left with an impression that they are busy with getting basic needs met ,reacting to whatever life throws on them.

        I think being in a remote rural area does affect them in terms of resources in this case.In other cases it is not a issue since everyone is born into certain condition but different people makes different things out of life.
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          Feb 21 2014: i wonder if it could be a chinese thing not to examine your life? Maybe a buddhist thing? Seems like everyone I meet in America does examine their life to some degree.
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        Feb 21 2014: Greg, you make an interesting observation when you write "everyone I meet in America does examine their life to some degree." What one might also notice is that it is very popular in America to believe that few people in America examine their lives at all.
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          Feb 21 2014: what do you think, Fritzie, when it comes to Americans and whether they examine their lives? Well, America is a very successful country, would that indicate that Americans do examine their lives?
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        Feb 21 2014: I agree with you that Americans at least very commonly can be seen to examine themselves and their lives as well as other people's lives and discuss these subjects actively with others. People in other countries likely also think about themselves and the lives they are leading, but I don't know whether people in other countries talk as much about how they see themselves as Americans often do. People do this informally, kids are encouraged to think and write reflectively at school, and many people are required to do so in the workplace as well. People cannot see themselves clearly of course, nor can they see others clearly.There are things about ourselves we see and things we don't.

        I don't know that I would connect reflectiveness and "success" in the way that you are using it. People can think hard about themselves and their choices and still not make good choices.
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          Feb 23 2014: do you even think it's possible not to examine your life? It seems like I can't turn my brain off even if I try. In that case, what the heck did Socrates even mean?

          Maybe when we see someone who we think isn't examining their life, in reality they're not examining their life the way we think they should?
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        Feb 22 2014: I tend not to generalise since I think people examine their lives to various degree like you mentioned.Buddism actully promotes looking inwardly so I'm not sure how that's related.
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          Feb 22 2014: well, it seems like you liked the people you met who didn't examine their lives. Would you like to be like them, why or why not?

          Actually, amily, i would think it's impossible to be alive and not examine your life at all? It seems like the brain automatically thinks whether you want it to or not? Do you really think you could live an unexamined life if that is what you desired?
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    • Feb 4 2014: Sorry for the late reply, i've been pretty busy the last couple of weeks.
      Couldn't agree more with your analysis... and even more as a proud vegeterian!
      The animal example was just an example of creatures who can't (at least to our understanding) examine life itself.
      In other words, they don't have a meta-cognition (at least not one that we know of),
      but you are totally right and I can fully identify with your analysis.

      I will visit your new debate ,sounds interesting, thank's for the invitation :-)
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    Jan 29 2014: I absolutely, wholeheartedly agree Meidan..."the unexamined life is not worth living".

    I experience the process of examining life, evaluating, sifting through information, exploring with curiosity and eagerness to learn, grow and evolve as an individual, while contributing to the whole, is what life is about.

    It is the exploration and continuous discoveries in the life adventure that are exciting and motivational. For me, genuinely living life is about being mindfully aware and present in each and every moment....enjoying the journey with curiosity and love:>)

    Welcome to TED conversations!
    • Feb 4 2014: Wonderfully phrased!!! Couldn't Have Said It Better... :-)
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    Jan 29 2014: 100% agree with him. Without passing through any kind of exam in the life, one can never know about his performance & is unable to establish any goal in his/her life.
    • Feb 4 2014: Totally agree, but at the same time i believe that constant examination of the meaning of life (in general) could push the human kind into more pleasant places.
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        Feb 5 2014: Exactly Meidan, you are right. Just as examination in school & college lets you know about your performance in your course work, the same way examinations in the life lets you know about your performance & standing in your practical life.
        • Feb 9 2014: Yes but it also helps you see how enigmatic life itself is... don't you think?
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    Jan 29 2014: I agree 100% Meidan. And I see the evidence of it every day. Most people never stop to reflect upon themselves, and yes, their lives are nothing more than foraging to meet surface desires.
    • Feb 4 2014: Sorry for the late reply, i was quite busy lately.... anyway, i'm glad to hear that you agree, although i think my interpretation was a bit different.
      I meant that life itself should be examined as much as possible.
      In a more dramatic tone :-) to constantly examine the "meaning of life" ,as the old cliche suggests.
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    Feb 9 2014: I would disagree. The more you look into anything, the more there is to see, and the more you know about anything, the more interesting it becomes. Therefore, if you examined the previously unexamined life you may realise that it was far more interesting than you ever anticipated, and certainly worth adopting in life.
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    Feb 6 2014: With all the information available today; seems focusing on one thing, requires not examining many things.
    • Feb 9 2014: I have to respectfully disagree :-) I don't think examining one thing prevents you from examining other things. You really believe so?
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    Feb 5 2014: I found this: The philosopher felt that humans should look within to get the true value of life. He also stressed the importance of happiness, self achievement and fulfilling goals without hurting yourself or others. A person who cannot find inner happiness or gain value, is living a life that is not worth living.

    As good as I can do.

    • Feb 9 2014: Thanks for the addition. I think it's quite accurate...
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    Jan 30 2014: Meidan, Interesting ... wonder what ole Socrates would have said about the NSA, CIA, FBI, IRS, KGB, Homeland Security, and host of others that are doing the evaluations without either our approval or knowledge without authorization or any cause.

    Reflection is a good thing .... being the subject of such scrutiny is quite another.
    • Feb 5 2014: Well you sure took it to another level... a bit conspiratory, isn't it? :-) but still.. it's interesting to think about...
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    Jan 30 2014: .
    The life of INVALID HAPPINESS is.
    • Feb 4 2014: Enigmatic... I've read about it a little bit on google. not quite sure i can agree...
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        Jan 30 2014: I wonder how this convo veered to the feminist issue except that Lilly blasted ALL males as 'incapable of examining their narcissistic, violent nature...' The very fact that Socrates said "The unexamined life is not worth living" is proof enough that not all males are not without empathy.

        And to go back to the main topic, I agree that the unexamined life is not worth living. Living without examining our lives is like creating an experiment that is all hit or miss. You keep on missing because you don't 'examine' why that keeps happening.

        I can't find any debates you're hosting Brendan so this is just where I joined you.
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        • Jan 31 2014: I may not be a good person, but surely not every man that has ever lived has been a barbarian anymore than every woman that has ever lived jas been a saint. There is no denying the abuse that women have suffered at the hands of men for eons but it seems unhealthy to condemn every man. You limit yourself and you limit every good man you condemn
        • Feb 6 2014: Name a woman that created any of the first early gods that came to earth and the woman

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      Jan 31 2014: @lilly
      I'm not bothered by opinions when it comes from sensible persons like you. In fact I was worrying
      that I were the one who offended you lol.
      You see, I was just forced to comment on your convo because Brendan requested that. So I failed
      to make a comment that doesn't sound harsh.
      It's possible that males fathom less than women because most males depend on cold logic rather than
      in intuition.
    • Feb 4 2014: Hey... didn't meant to set up a fire :-)
      Socrates was mentioned as a reference the the sentence, not because he is Socrates (although i, personally, adore him for his courage and simplicity).
      Following the things you've said, I consider myself a feminist (yes, a proud male feminist), but i still think that judging historical events according to modern values is quite complex and can provide us with very few understandings.
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        • Feb 9 2014: Hey lilly lilly
          Good week to you!
          I would love to get another chance to understand you.
          You can try explaining again? if it's fine by you...Thanks in advance
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        • Feb 9 2014: Hi lilly
          I wish you the best.
          Thanks for your effort to explain again.
          This time I think I got it :-)
          I couldn't agree more with first part of your things.
          Objectivity can't be reached no matter what.
          And I agree that we all suffer from being culturally biased.
          But do you really think that this "cultural jail" prevents us from asking questions?
          I think not. I think that questions about the meaning of life is beyond this "cultural jail",
          That is, of course, if I understood you correctly this time. Hope I did.
          At any rate, take care and thanks for your continues efforts to explain your beliefs :-)
    • Feb 6 2014: if as you say socrates is among the ones who created culture,man gods,philosophy,science,laws,war machines, then he is one great all rounder isnt it?
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    Jan 29 2014: well, the fact is, by examining our life, we fulfill our basic needs better than animals, in other words we eat better, we live more warmly and comfortably in our clothes and shelters.
    • Feb 4 2014: Yeah but it seems that (according to this way of thought) that's pretty much it...
      Do you really think it is?
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        Feb 5 2014: what are you asking, Meidan? Whether the advantage of examining your life is only that you get a more sensually comfortable life, or whether there are additional rewards besides a more sensually comfortable life?

        For me, everything ultimately does come back to sensual comfort and pleasure. Even emotional happiness only matters to me because ultimately emotional happiness feels physically good.
        • Feb 9 2014: Let's say that, as you argued, sensually comfortable life as the ultimate goal.
          I believe that the more people will examine life in more profound ways, the faster we will get to a more sensually comfortable life. 
          Hope you see where I aiming at...
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        Feb 9 2014: well, to get other people to examine life I guess you can ask them questions to make them think. And, when they see you asking questions and enjoying learning, maybe they will start asking questions as well so that they can enjoy learning?

        How do you examine life, Meidan, or where do your examinations of life take you?
        • Feb 9 2014: You probably know that your description is almost identical to the famous Socratic method of getting people to wonder and re-examine their basic knowledge and I totally agree with this method. Although it seems that the nature of people (or more accurately, their ego) makes it harder for them to be drawn into this journey. They rather to believe that no one can teach them anything new (the more older people get the more convinced in it they are).I always puts aside ego when it comes to learning new thing, no matter who is trying to teach me. I can only hope that more people would act like that.

          As for my examination... it takes me to no-limits land... it takes me into philosophy, mathematics, biology, physics, chemistry and so on... but more important, i think it gives me a more proportional perspective about life and how little do we know about it and that (in some way) keeps me away from the individualization process that seems to be happening to western society which I'm part of. I can keep talking for ages about the importance of such examination to me, but that's enough for now...

          What about you, do you examine life? And if so, where did it takes you? Or, what you come up with?
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        Feb 10 2014: Well, Meidan, by "examine" life do you simply mean try to learn more about life? Well, when I interact with other people, I usually ask them a lot of questions about themselves and whatever they know about. Like if I meet someone who's an engineer, I'd ask them about engineering so I can learn something about it. If I meet someone who has visited Japan, I ask them about Japan so I can learn something about it. I do this because I enjoy learning. I hope that when others see me doing this, asking questions and taking an interest in other people, and they see that I get some pleasure out of it, they will copy me and also take an interest in other people. I'm not 100% sure this is what Socrates was doing, but it works for me.

        Of course, I also share with other people the interesting things I've learned, I suppose you could call this "teaching."

        I would say one result of learning and teaching is you see old things in a new way. For example, everyone knows what saliva is, it's this fluid inside their mouth. But as I lived, I eventually realized you could use your own saliva to clean your face, like lots of times I'll put my own saliva on my fingers and hands and clean my face and hair with it. Some say it's gross, I say it's creative. If you like, you can watch my YouTube video on it: