Shore of a yellow sunrise against muted pink sky

The trauma of ignorance

What’s it like to not know something? To genuinely not understand or have realised the importance of some particular fact, concept, theory or way of thinking about life or any of the many things filling it. Because, how can we know what we don’t? If we’ve not bound any given piece of knowledge to self, presumably we just don’t have it – it’s not “there” in our worldview or frame for grasping reality.

And, of all the pieces of information flying at us each day, how are we to know which to hold to? While many of them come thickly coated with promises, threats, expectations or other forms of pressure, it’s still challenging to filter out all the truly reliable and essential while letting what’s non-essential fall away. Constantly determining how much everything matters seems inherently stressful. (Notes One)

Even if we manage to capture all the essentials, don’t we also need to combine them into a cohesive picture? Find the right balance, the right juxtaposition between the injunctions of society, family, culture, peers and community. This idea that various forms of knowledge have to live alongside one another – their edges blurring, breaking or bending to allow space for all life’s messy complexities.

If humans exist in a world of thought and make thoughts their own, the idea of what we take in and what comes of it seems intriguing (Notes Two). How many of us have entirely correct sets of ideas in mind? Fully aware of absolutely everything; having thought out the implications, origins, perspectives and intentions behind it all. In today’s blending world it’s seeming fairly unlikely.

Isn’t it much more likely we’re all living with some level of ignorance alongside many areas of insight and expertise? All those things we might simply be unaware of; our life never having brought them meaningfully to our attention. All we may not have seen the full significance of, for one reason or another. Aren’t the chances quite high that we all have “gaps” or misfiled, poorly defined pieces of information?

Given the nature of modern life, with all its voices talking at once, the idea of ignoring what “needs” to be ignored while taking in all we sorely need to know sometimes seems an impossible challenge. That we’re somehow needing to select between all we see – and, all it seems to mean – to update our evolving picture of all that life is. (Notes Three)

Not to say ignorance is acceptable; clearly, it’s risky for self and society in many important ways. But how are we to live alongside it? How are we to stand confidently in our knowledge, knowing it’s probably incomplete? How are we to manage that shaky trauma of realising what you didn’t know and wondering how you lived without it? How do we trust ourselves or others, knowing we’ve good reason to doubt?

Almost as if we’re needing some form of ongoing re-education or dialogue, to flesh out a fuller understanding of life without tearing ourselves to pieces.

Notes and References:

Note 1: Seeing what things mean
Note 1: Intelligence, wisdom & common sense
Note 1: If environment shapes us…
Note 1: Who can we turn to?
Note 2: Pieces of the puzzle
Note 2: Culture, thought & coexistence
Note 2: All we’re trying to uphold
Note 2: Acclimatisation to a world of meaning
Note 2: Learning all we need to know
Note 3: Threads, becoming a united whole
Note 3: Any choice but to take a stand?
Note 3: Life as adjustments in meaning

Looking back to the end of last year’s writing, Charting our own course perhaps stand somewhere alongside all this.

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