knowledge, working for it and managing cynicism
“Solamen miseris socios habuisse doloris.”
(It is a comfort to the wretched to have companions in misery)
“The world is not a wish-granting factory.”
Gus <Fault in our Stars>
There is a part of everything which is unexplored, because we are accustomed to using our eyes only in association with the memory of what people before us have thought of the thing we are looking at.
Even the smallest thing has something in it which is unknown.
Let me start again.
There are smart people, born that way, but they are not born with knowledge.
Natural smarts is a trait.
Knowledge is earned, it takes work.
Now. That work can be fun because the aid in the fight for knowledge is curiosity and curiosity is fun.
Regardless. Gaining knowledge can be fun, but it takes work for a couple of reasons:
– Knowledge is about accumulation and sifting
– Knowledge is about overcoming cynicism
That said. As a self-proclaimed knowledge seeker I feel qualified to at least comment on this subject. I admit that those of us who seek knowledge are doomed to be in companions of misery.
Some of us see our blind spots and seek to solve them. The frustrating part is that we are often faced by others who don’t accept their blind spots seeing what they want to see <this can range between simply ‘not knowing’ to ‘purposeful ignorance’>.
We companions in bias recognition realize the terrible nature of the bargain we make with Life. We do not seek to squander whatever curiosity-driven abilities we may have in self-indulgent behavior, but rather look for some higher intellectual plane found with knowledge. We also realize part of the bargain is we need to be resilient in the face of the cynical.
In other words.
We seek to avoid what Faustus accepted — a life of mediocrity <“I’ll burn my books,” Faustus cries as the devils come for him>.
We seek to avoid denouncing, as Faustus did in desperation attempting to save himself, the temptation of knowledge — the quest for knowledge that has defined most of his life.
“Faustus: Stay, Mephistopheles, and tell me, what good will
my soul do thy lord?
Mephistopheles: Enlarge his kingdom.
Faustus: Is that the reason he tempts us thus?
We ‘bias facers’ seek to avoid failing our calling in Life — the constant desire <temptation?> for more & more knowledge. More & more knowledge.
That is what Life dangles in front of all of us.
Becoming more enlightened.
Becoming more knowledgeable <and yet less knowledgeable at exactly the same time>.
Those are the fruits of temptation which make us wretched and constantly leave us in misery.
But what a wonderful misery.
We companions in misery wallow in the enjoyment of the task <the pursuit of truth & knowledge>, but we also enjoy the actual task of the pursuit — the moments when we actually touch the enlarging kingdom <the glimpses of true understanding>.
I would suggest it is a balance of the two: the pursuit and the ‘touch.’
Regardless. Today’s world?
A couple thoughts.
1. Wisdom versus knowledge.
Wisdom does not loom large in the modern psyche.
It has been replaced by knowledge, which does not pretend to emotive value; in its least appealing forms, it even eschews such associations. It is strictly about things and the manipulation of them; and, unsurprisingly, it’s directed outwardly, towards the technologies of life and not their meanings. So we have many people who, externally speaking, are able but not wise; active but not prudent.
And perhaps this defines our society and our age as much as any other set of words: activity without prudence, or, imprudent doing.
To have prudence is to have foresight, to attend to.
But attention is born from within, not from outward circumstances; and in the great esoteric traditions attention is of a divine origin, not a worldly one.”
Lee van Laer
Wisdom is not knowledge and knowledge is not wisdom. And, yet, we often confuse them. Truly wise people far too often get bludgeoned by people who have ‘knowledge.’
Facts or quai-facts are used like rational rocks covering a person until they not only get muffled but succumb to the weight and suffocate under the crush of mis-used knowledge.
Wisdom is a level above knowledge. It is taking knowledge and understanding the emotional and cerebral aspects beyond the ‘facts’ and smart sounding words.
I would argue that Wisdom is divine and Knowledge is of the world.
That nuance escapes the majority of people.
2. Inquiry versus knowledge.
It seems like the emphasis is on inquiry <not real knowledge> in today’s world has attained a status in which it gets confused with knowledge.
Inquiring minds do not have to be knowledgeable.
Knowledgeable minds are inquiring minds.
In that paradox it is easy to get confused.
And in the confusion knowledge can be reduced to the ability to expose error and undermine belief. That, my friends, is a sad state of affairs.
It increases the companionship of misery knowledge seekers endure.
The inquirer has taken the guise of the sophisticated spectator, rather than the messy participant in continuing experiments or even the reverent beholder of great cultural achievements.
In the past I have noted how debunking has become not only fashionable but rather a business. A world strewn with contradictions should make us ponder more interesting questions and not simply debunk existing knowledge. There is certainly some satisfaction to be found in being critical but we cannot lose sight of the fact it is more interesting to find inspiration in the questioning <and learn more>. But many people are lazy and accept what they know at the moment as ‘what is’ and remain cynical of all that “is not.”
Being smart, for many, means being critical and having strong critical skills shows that you will not be easily fooled. The critical skill, intellectual challenging, is not totally without value, but simply being satisfied with debunking <and not answers> is a dangerous game. Critical reflection is fundamental to learning, but confusing disbelief or cynicism as a sign of intelligence or intelligent thinking has only contributed to a decay in true enlightened thinking.
The type of absorption true critical thinking demands is becoming an endangered species in today’s world.
Anyway. Suffice it to say inquiry has attained such status because how can you not love that information is now available so easily?
But there is a huge difference between learning information and knowing something <which takes a lot more time>. The burden of those who truly seek knowledge is that knowledge takes time.
But instant knowledge gratification comes at a price: when practically all answers are a click away, we sometimes stop really valuing the search or the solution. I’m willing to deal with that if it means I can know everything that is known (at least hypothetically – Google’s taking forever to scan every book, and let’s not even TALK about how long it’s taking for them to get me a Wikipedia implant).
As far as I’m concerned, if you have access to a Samoa cookie any time you happen to crave one, it’s OK if they’re a tiny bit less delicious than they were when you had to serendipitously stumble across an eight-year-old and wait six weeks for a box of them. But I can’t deny that I treasured my research successes and serendipities much more when they were more difficult.
That completes those two thoughts.
Now. In addition.
I absolutely believe we all benefit by spending a little bit of time to really appreciate the staggering wealth of information available via the internet and how little effort it truly takes to mine that wealth.
On the flip side of the coin.
When everything becomes a click away people begin foolishly thinking it is actually easier to become knowledgeable, or worse, an expert.
Unfortunately, knowledge takes work.
“To get the answer you must survive the question.”
“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
So. Once you work and gain knowledge, what do you do with it? Uh oh. This is where society can lead you astray. And that leads me to a fabulous site http://expertenough.com/
Most people think of being knowledgeable with an objective in mind. Let’s call it ‘being an expert in something.’ And, yet, we define expert in absolutes of ‘best of best’ or some pinnacle of knowledge.
Expertise isn’t an absolute.
Think of it as a scale, from 1 to 10. If you’re a 3, there are plenty of 1s and 2s out there who you can teach, and probably better than people with more expertise.
Anyway. In the end I believe knowledge is worth the work. Working to gain it and working to fight cynicism of others. It takes work to know knowledge is about knowing it is more about ‘understanding.’ That is where the real prize resides.
“Any fool can know. The point is to understand. “
Marlowe and Faustus reminded me of the thirst for knowledge and how far people will go for it. Faustus, restless for knowledge, forsakes scholarship for magic and makes a pact with the Devil — and endures Hell.
Let me be clear.
You don’t need to make a deal with the devil. You just need to make the choice to work for it and work towards the heights to be attained.
The heights by great men reached and kept
Were not obtained by sudden flight,
But they, while their companions slept,
Were toiling upward in the night.
I know I have said it before but the people who make it look easy make it look easy because they invested a lot of hard work to make you think so.
Knowledge, or being knowledgeable, is exactly the same.
You aren’t born with knowledge, you have to work to gather it, sift thru it and understand it. And even once you have gained it … you need to work to protect it and ‘project it’ in the ongoing battle with ignorance and cynicism.
Knowledge is work.
It is a lot of ‘toiling upward in the night.’
That said. It is a labor of love.