Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Sherry's Musings on a Day Off about...Knowing and Not Knowing...

The internet is great for finding out just about anything about anyone provided you don't mind whether or not what you find out is true, only that someone found it.   

In the midst of everything in the news, about the Supreme Court nominee, about the Church, about the President, about Congress, the raging debate is about what should be believed, and why and how one goes about establishing truth.  What one believes about any of the hot button topics depends largely upon what camp one wants to support or upend.  We're mad as hell about X, you're associated with X, ergo, we're mad at you.  We've gone from "trust but verify" to "No trust and  no verification is sufficient if I doubt, and no verification is necessary if I believe."  

It's like we're stuck in the first line of the Iliad.  RAGE: Sing, Goddess, Achilles' rage, Black and murderous, that cost the Greeks Incalculable pain, pitched countless souls Of heroes into Hades' dark, And left their bodies to rot as feasts For dogs and birds, as Zeus' will was done.  

The spirit of the age, is rage.  It's an all consuming type of hunger which doesn't lead to changes in behavior, heart, or even a lessening of the need for more outbursts or anger within the individuals proclaiming their outrage.  Fire consumes and turns all into itself until there is nothing left but ashes. We'll have yelled and screamed and demanded a pound of flesh, a fist full of dollars, and change, but will it bring justice, or merely be the next part of a vicious cycle.

How do we break it or at least, put the breaks on this perpetual trench warfare of relativism and epistemological nihilism to get at knowing reality and being able to do something with that knowledge?

1) Take off the lenses.  My professor on policy spoke with great caution about how the political, rational and ideological lenses we wear if we use them exclusively, necessarily cut us off from thinking about the multi-faceted nature of issues, and from seeing the legitimacy of arguments not our own.  Life is, truth is more than what we can confirm by our biases, and bigger than any side we champion, and it does not need me or anyone else to minimize it or shave part of it away to make it bearable. 

2) Quest for truth first.  What is known? What can be known? Don't just apply Occam's razor to the news, to one's experience.  Truth is not always simply that which requires the least assumptions and is easiest to discern.    Truth is simple but Truth is hard.  Truth is knowable.  Truth is also usually more complex than one side or the other would allow or admit.  
Don't make assumptions, only draw conclusions from known facts.  

3) Ask the unpleasant questions that go against one's own preferences or outcome.  Ask the unpleasant questions that reveal bad acting.  Ask and ask and ask again.   If no one else is asking the question, start asking.  We suffer in this age from a wealth of capacity for information and investigation and a dearth of curiosity.  Part of that lack of inquisitiveness is an effort to protect one's own side in whatever argument is being advanced.   We don't want to have to handle the truth; it's not that we can't, but as a people, we are slothful.   We don't want to have to stomach it, so we opt not to eat.   

The problem with sloth in the mind, is it leads to sloth in action.  All summer we've seen what being unwilling to look squarely at reality leads to, a bigger wound.  What we don't treat, infects.  If we continue to pretend we can know nothing, understand nothing and believe nothing, we will eventually convince ourselves and the reality of a world in which nothing can be known, understood or believed. The subsequent world we'd live in, is a hellish world without end, where all that would be left, is ashes.   

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