What do we know, anyway? Not a lot…

In my view, we all need to be humble in measuring what little we actually know against the vastness of what we contemplate. We need all the help we can get in our attempts to make sense of a vastness which a great and respected scientist has not long ago admitted may be beyond our comprehension. (He could be wrong, of course!) We need to co-operate with one another, as we all go about honing and sharpening the particular lenses through which we look out at mystery.

Reaching for the Moon...
Reaching for the Moon…

We need the perspectives of rationalist, reductionist science. But we also need the perspectives of those non-rational dimensions of the ceaseless human journey towards understanding where we came from, why we are here, and what, if anything, it all means. The great myths, the great religions, the arts – all these also give us a partial glimpse of  The Big Why.

So my Really Big Why is this:

WHY can we not learn to respect each other’s different lenses/disciplines, instead of – as so often happens – descending irrationally to the primitive level of the tribal carnivores from which we have slowly evolved over the last 100,000 years, and taking up fundamentalist, tribal positions – in which the futile attempt to declare only one lens right and all others wrong, is doomed forever to utter failure?

An example of a body of knowledge which seems to attract such fundamentalist irrationality is the great and ancient art and science of astrology.

It has combined those realms of logos (reason) and mythos (imagination, story-telling, creating of metaphors which help us to live with our deep flaws as humans, as well as celebrating our wonderful creativity) for at least six thousand years, since, in Arthur Koestler’s vivid words from The Sleepwalkers”:

“Six thousand years ago, when the human mind  was still half asleep, Chaldean priests were standing on their watchtowers, scanning the stars.”

So I found it most refreshing, as a life-long appreciator of the wonders of science, to have read Lord Rees’ admission that we may never be able to decode the universe. But let’s pool all our knowledge, shall we, on both sides of the current mythos/logos divide, to enable us to  concentrate on what unites us – rather than what divides us.

Reaching for the Moon....

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400 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2015
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

10 thoughts on “What do we know, anyway? Not a lot…

  1. Oh, my. This really caught me: “We need to co-operate with one another, as we all go about honing and sharpening the particular lenses through which we look out at mystery.”

    Then, I started to laugh when I read your suggestion that we need both reason and imagination.

    Here’s what crossed my mind. When I had my cataract surgery, I had a lens for distance vision implanted in my right eye, and a lens for near vision in my left. In order to read, use the computer, drive, fix dinner, I need to use both eyes, with one becoming the dominant eye, depending on the task.

    Need I point out the obvious analogy? Two lenses — reason and imagination — used in tandem, with one becoming dominant when needed.
    Eye surgery as a key to mystery! What’s not to like?

    1. Linda, I love this! You have a way of putting a lateral but pertinent spin on life’s vicissitudes which I really enjoy. Eye surgery as a key to mystery? Why not?

  2. I’m grateful for getting older, wiser, and the gift of realizing that we’re all on different paths, all have strengths and weaknesses, and most of the time I’m able to see my fellow man thru loving eyes.. There are times when I struggle and try to figure out why someone was able to punch my buttons..I stop and try to view the problem through their eyes, but it is hard at times to do that.

    Anyway, thanks as always for sharing; I always enjoy your posts.

    1. Thanks, Lisa for this thoughtful and compassionate reply. I try to live like this too…but find it really hard with some folk, or types of folk…I think that being able to laugh at oneself is one of the best ways of breaking the logjams of judgements of others into which we sometimes drift. At least, I find that to be the case.

      Keep up your vital, lively writing. It gives those of us living less adventurous lives in chillier climates, a real window into more exotic places!

      1. You’re welcome, dear Anne, and thank you, once again. While I was sick, there were a few disappointments – not regarding me, but when hearing some news about friends who had asked other friends for help during a crisis, and they were turned down. It took days and days and then weeks for me to get past the news.. I was stuck in a roundabout circuit and knew I shouldn’t be judging, but couldn’t get past it. I’m better, but it’s sometimes difficult when we get a glipse of the true colors. We have to adjust, learn and move on, but darn it’s hard to do sometimes. One day I’ll look back and see where there were valuable lessons in that ‘story,’ and how we grew through it.

        I think if anyone criticises you or your work, it must be that your words touched a sensitive nerve that has nothing to do with you.
        And yes, laughter is a definite ‘must’ in today’s world.

  3. Given that we are all at different levels on our life path, I doubt that we will ever reach a state of collective bliss. Some look at life through rose colored glasses while others have a broader lens…and there are those who “see” from the heart…openly, accepting and non-judging. This last one may be the lesser traveled path, but also the least troublesome.

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