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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

cognoscere

Okay.  Continuing on with thoughts from places: the return from Europe.


One of the things that I really want to emphasize--that being in Europe has demonstrated to me in daily abundance--is the absolute dearth of knowledge I have.


Please note that the word there is not depth, it is dearth; a word which here means the opposite of depth or breadth or really anything impressive. A veritable lacking, if you will. So there is no typo.


For one thing Europe has history that predates recorded history, and it's so dynamic and diverse across the continent that it's impossible to not learn something that you've never even heard of almost every time you turn around.
Couple that with the myriad languages and dialects you never thought you'd encounter, the foods you've never fathomed, the ways of life you've never considered living.... everything just combines to remind you that you must keep learning, all the time. Don't get lazy and assume you know enough. There are vast realms of things worth finding out and perspectives you didn't know existed!


I mean, I thought myself a clever, well-educated person; well-read enough to at least know a little about most things. But even after all that, I've come to see that the amount of stuff that I know can be condensed into something that might be best described by comparing the volume of the earth to that of the sun.

Earth for scale


Take into consideration the amount of stuff that I truly understand, and we're talking the earth compared to the milky way and beyond here.


One thing I understand quite clearly, though, is this:  I understand nothing.  Which makes for a good paradox, especially because it's true. In my world, the one constructed by me, I understand the majority of things--like 51%. But once I get outside of myself, that amount quickly converges to zero.


And no matter how much learning and experiencing I do in this life, the amount of understanding that I capture will really never rise above zero.


I say this not to belittle our individual mental capacities or existences, but because I think it does us a great deal to realize that the perspective that crowds so much of our consciousness and understanding is frequently hopelessly inadequate at understanding another person.  We can catch glimpses and sympathize. On occasion we even manage empathy. But we cannot assume that we know how someone feels, or can judge them for what they're doing. That's as presumptuous as claiming to understand the intricacies of the universe!


At the same time, we can't expect other people to be able to get on our level, either. Their level of understanding you is just as incomplete as your level of understanding them.  I think that if we both understood this and remembered it more, we'd be more patient and compassionate and, paradoxically, understanding.

So don't forget how much of the World you've left out there completely unexplored! Good luck exploring it all :)