It’s funny how the older we get, the more we are willing to accept, the less we really know.
As frustrating as this may be, as much as we might pretend we’re in control and drawing on a vast bank of acquired knowledge….we really have absolutely no clue what-so-ever…… most of the time …….about most things.
(I hope that’s not just me!)
Sure, we may be professionals or experts in a given field perhaps; astronomy, real estate, gardening, finance, but even then, if we’re honest – we certainly can’t know it all and there are always so many more questions than answers.
Like a bottomless bucket that will never be filled, our attempt to know more often leaves us wanting more.
During the early Enlightenment period in Europe, philosophers believed knowledge was the pathway to providing happiness, that ignorance was the provocateur of unhappiness.
But of course, we now know, that even this understanding was flawed.
Socrates the great Greek philosopher himself was wise to this, much earlier on – “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing”.
Supposedly understanding the limits of what he knew, brought Socrates a profound sense of contentment.
As humans, we each are on a quest to ‘know’ more. To learn The How, The Why, The What etc. It’s what separates us from animals; our insatiable appetite to know ‘stuff’.
But I wonder if it’s not so much as the ‘knowing’ as it is in the ‘learning’ and knowing how we learn, that offers us that greater reward; a richer wisdom.
Thomas Edison once said “We don’t know 1% of 100 million about anything”. Smart chap he was!
Do I pretend to know who ‘such-n-such’ is, that a friend quoted the other day?
Can I explain why the trees are green and not purple to my 7 year old son?
What the heck are ‘Frankenfoods’? And how can I begin to understand what’s at the edge of the universe?
I love learning (a prerequisite for being a teacher no doubt), but ironically the more I know, the more exposed I feel. The more restless I become, the more anxious I feel.
When our heads are heavy with the weight of knowing, why is it there is still an emptiness inside?
The realisation that we can never know it all is an undisputed fact, but that doesn’t stop us from trying and feeling inadequate most of the time, when we don’t know something.
So surely better than exploring all the infinite possibilities out there, is the challenge to know HOW to learn. HOW to appreciate our mind’s workings and finding the purpose in learning.
Science is driven by such a quest. It is not just the knowledge uncovered, the theory confirmed, the discovery made, but the quest itself.
The continually shifting horizon and the knowledge of the process of discovery gained along the way, is of just as much value, if not more.
It’s incredible how little we really know about the world, what makes up its parts and our place in it all.
And yet we are told that ‘Knowledge is power’.
With knowledge comes the ability to make informed decisions, the key to unlock doors, an appreciation for empathy and tolerance for others. Great stuff all round.
“That knowledge humbles me, melts my bones, closes my ears, and makes my teeth rock loosely in their gums. And it also liberates me. I am a big bird winging over high mountains, down into serene valleys. I am ripples of waves on silver seas. I’m a spring leaf trembling in anticipation.” ― Maya Angelou, Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now
But just like accumulating ‘things’ doesn’t always guarantee their use, so too knowledge doesn’t always equate to wisdom.
We could argue that the more valued trait is an understanding of HOW we learn, how we acquire knowledge. Better yet, our purpose that drives us on this quest.
Asking an inordinate number of questions and being open to all possibilities, appreciating our own ignorance, while remaining forever curious and utilising our ‘head space’ to its full potential, have got be a winning combination.
“The greatest pleasure of ignorance is, after all, the pleasure of asking questions. The man who has lost this pleasure or exchanged it for the pleasure of dogma, which is the pleasure of answering, is already beginning to stiffen.” Robert Lynd
Read…..sure. Talk…… yes. Listen….. absolutely. Observe…. most definitely! Throw into that mix, the DOING and we’re living really, aren’t we? But the best kind.
The mind boggles at how much there is still to know. How much is out there that we could, should but more interestingly WON’T ever get to know?
And that’s what makes the unwrapping of the gift so much more exciting than the present itself.