The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

Ignoring not knowing

A few days ago, I was intrigued by a tweet coming through the Prof. Feynman handle. It said, “I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong.” A bit later another of his tweets said, “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.”

Initially, I presumed that the two would go well together for a scientist, or for someone with the curiosity Richard Feynman had.

But then I was reminded of the human tendency to focus on oneself whenever one’s ego takes the role of an expert. Especially when it becomes attached to its expertise.

The ego’s expertise is its experience as well as the stories it tells itself. They have been developed through its experience and relationship with others as well as the world surrounding us. The ego uses this expertise to guide us through life, it uses what it knows to support us. Everything it knows has been learned and oftentimes proved itself to be useful. It helps us achieve similar results as in the past and validates our experience.

Knowing is what experts need to rely on as they provide us with services or support, we’ve requested.

Scientists on the other hand know that whatever they know is knowledge that has not yet been fully proven. The theories they use can be relied upon, that is, until something new shows that there is more to it and that the theory wasn’t totally right yet. They know that they don’t know. And so, they set out to verify if something they believed is true.

In human relationships, people often give meaning to another person’s behavior. It’s triggered by the desire to know, and the anxiety related to not knowing. The consequence is that they’ll choose an answer according to their preference, that is expertise. They’ll perceive the other as more important than themselves or vice versa. Building on that assumption they’ll conclude who did something wrong or how what is happening can be justified. The ego perceiving himself as an expert finds himself satisfied with that result.

The scientist wouldn’t settle with this answer. If it’s important enough he would inquire, and if it isn’t he’d leave any judgment or opinion aside and rely on the fact that he doesn’t know.

Instead of feeding the ego with energy, the energy would be used to discover what the ego doesn’t know or ignores and verify if there is the possibility of knowing.

If one dares to take up this approach, life becomes indeed more interesting as the number of stories one becomes aware of and can use grows exponentially.


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