The OF Blog: I confess: I really know little and understand even less

Monday, May 26, 2014

I confess: I really know little and understand even less

Saw an interesting New York Times article linked today on Facebook.  Entitled "Faking Cultural Literacy," it deals with issues related to "real-time, real news" cycles in which people are inundated with events, expecting to form opinions even when "real" information is scarce or even nonexistent.  Although I do not agree 100% with its points, I am at least sympathetic with them, as they do strike close to the heart of some musings that I have had over the past several weeks.  What I think I've concluded, at least for know, is that I really know little and understand even less.

This may sound like a counter-intuitive thesis, considering that as an occasional reviewer and teacher, I might be expected to know something about which I fold forth.  However, the older I've become and the more experiences I've had with people from all walks of life (or is it just several walks of life, with several multitudes awaiting to be discovered or, worse, ignored?), the more I've become convinced that I too easily become convinced sometime.  Maybe it's jumping to a conclusion and making comments that hurt another, before hearing their side or learning new information that would lead me to disown those previously-made comments and assumptions.  Or maybe I want to believe in something just hard enough that "evidence" is shifted to support that stance without any further consideration.

Regardless of how it happens, what too frequently happens is that I convince myself that my knowledge and my opinions matter.  To whom it matters is irrelevant.  I am a "decider," someone who proclaims his thoughts on literary genres, politicians, social movements, justice, prejudices, sports teams, and favorite squirrels.  But do I really know anything about what I say?

I am beginning to think "no," that I really don't.  I see evidence of this in listening to others talk about things in ways that I didn't even fathom beforehand.  I see it in my struggles to articulate opinions.  I see it in those moments where it is better to just be silent and to consider what is unfolding around me.  So yes, considering the hugeness of human knowledge and dialogues, I really do know little and understand even less.

But that doesn't mean that I can try harder to understand something or another just a little bit more.

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