Of all the things that exist in the world, how many can we say we already know and understand? And, how many of those ideas we have in mind could we claim to be completely true and flawless? It just seems the world’s so vast, so full of different ways of seeing and interpreting the realities we find around us – how could we ever say our knowledge of it is now complete?
These days, however, it seems we’re often told knowledge is easy: it’s at our fingertips, and even children will confidently proclaim they understand things far more complex than many adults truly have a firm grasp around. We’re wielding logic, facts and conclusions as if life’s simple with everyone in agreement on how we’ll interpret it all.
In reality, though, aren’t words still open to interpretation and their meanings subject to ever-shifting definition? Any form of communication perhaps always being a case of somehow managing to convey what we mean and establish agreement around every term we’ve used along the way (Notes One). When our worlds were more limited it may’ve been that meanings were commonly held, but it’s not seeming so true now.
Words, after all, are simply representative of our ideas – standing in the place of complex, integrated, ever-changing realities. Now that all our experiences of reality are being pooled into this one, virtual conversation, how are we to claim the words we’re using carry the same meaning at the point they’re received? Can we be sure of having communicated effectively if our intended meaning never reached the other’s mind?
What I’m trying to say is, communication’s far from easy. There are so many grey areas, projections and preconceived notions around what everything means. And now there’s so little time, so many people to talk to, and so much at stake it’s not looking to get any easier. Hasn’t communication generally been one of humanity’s bigger problems? Finding ways to share understanding and reach agreement having, perhaps, taken up most of our time.
Maybe there aren’t that many people who truly “are” skilled at communication? At conveying ideas, explaining perspectives, exploring differences, listening openly, letting others reach their own conclusions about where they now stand. Isn’t it essentially a question of how we’re approaching things? Things meaning people, experiences, ideas, beliefs and attitudes. Whether we’re tolerant of diverging viewpoints, or not. (Notes Two)
Often now, everything seems like a battle; people and their ideas, something to defeat or eliminate. What does it mean to make “conquering” part of how we relate? To judge, attack, belittle, sweep aside or downplay the thoughts and experiences others have in mind. What would it mean, instead, to approach people with attitudes of openness, curiosity and acceptance? Perhaps, even, to approach life and knowledge itself that way.
If much in life, despite what we might think (Notes Three), is truly unknown at this point, how we go about forging relationships with all we’ve not yet come to understand is perhaps crucially important.
Notes and References:
Note 1: Social starting points for modern ways
Note 1: Tone in public dialogue
Note 2: Tempting justifications of self
Note 2: Humans, judgement & shutting down
Note 2: Thoughts of idealism and intolerance
Note 3: Convergence and divergence
Note 3: Is anything obvious to someone who doesn’t know?
Note 3: Seeing, knowing and loving
Note 3: Knowing who to trust
Note 3: Spirit as the invisible