Saturday, June 23, 2012

Comfort from ignorance

It seems fundamentally American to at least consider how to get things done faster.  At least some things.  I heard about a spot in Japan where the farmers used to walk quite a distance up a mountain to share an evening together at a monastery.  A long tiring walk, a simple but satisfying meal, plenty of good conversation and sharing of lives, achievements, losses and fears.  Then, a wide smooth road was built to the place and the farmers acquired cars.  They get there faster, they are not tired, the evening doesn't have the same feel and no one stays overnight. Did modern inventions and methods ruin a good thing?

I have elevated blood sugar but my recent A1c test showed the best results I have ever had on it.  During the discussion of my results, the doctor said that the liver can itself raise my blood sugar.  He said just why it does so is part of the current state of ignorance about the disease.

At various times, I have wondered if I might be able to condense the effects of getting an advanced degree down to fit comfortably into a shorter time.  Again, the urge to find a faster, cheaper but as effective method of doing something, an urge that admittedly might lead to trouble and lessening in the quality of life.  Just reading more books and writing more papers might be a waste of time or worse: it might lower my awareness of other important things or give me a false sense of important achievement.  

One candidate for an important asset that CAN come from advanced study and research is appropriate levels of doubt.  Too much doubt and I can become disoriented.  Too little and I can be falsely convinced of things on scanty and incomplete evidence.  I can sometimes find comfort in ignorance.  When somebody that knows a subject tells me where that understanding ends, I feel good.  I feel as though the speaker really does know what he understands and what he doesn't.  

Dark areas of ignorance are often unpleasant but it is true that we aren't going to understand everything.  One of the pieces of advanced knowledge that many older people just absorb into their minds without effort is simply knowing that understanding is limited, conveying understanding with language or other arts is limited, and our ability to sort error, falsehood and pure propaganda from genuine knowledge is also limited.

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