I was sort-of recently in New York City, absorbing the hum of so much humanity and weather. Walking toward the great library on 5th Avenue, I paused to read some of the quotes lining the street. I thought less about the writers and their words, more about the bureaucrat who came up with the idea, the artists who assembled the words and graphics, the workers who positioned them into the symmetrical concrete squares. I thought about how much I don’t know, massive amounts of stuff that I will never comprehend.
I was eating pizza at John’s on Bleecker, loudly congratulating myself for arriving early before the hordes, while Phillip Seymour Hoffman was ignominiously wheeled out of his apartment in a body bag a few blocks away.
To this simple guy, the hallmark of ignorance is the declaration of certain knowledge. Knowledge is a spectrum, a moving, breathing thing. It is never final, never unassailable.
The unknowing are those who proclaim to know, to know that druggies are bad weak people, that private schools are better than public schools, that organic eating is healthier, that global warming is happening, that people kill people (not guns). These things are not true, simply because they cannot be proven to be so in every instance. Trying to prove such things involves generalization and assumption, and where these are present, there is some degree of fallacy.
Being able to admit and embrace that fallacy is enlightenment. There is no other way.
Stephen Hawking can admit he was wrong. That’s intelligence. Most humans I know can’t do that most of the time, including the goofy lout in my mirror.
There’s no right or wrong, no black or white. None of that matters in the long run.
Things are complex. Our minds don’t perform well with multiple variables. Most of us do not intuitively process and appreciate econometric models.
To the human mind yearning for simplicity, Russia is a hilarious short dictator wearing no shirt. This man should be wearing a shirt, which is the funny part, but we all know that Russia is more than this comical man. It is full of great history and beauty and corruption and incalculably more. There’s more.
When a plane disappears or a country is subsumed or someone we love dies, we don’t know what happens next, to us or to that plane, country or person. We writhe in the immutable uncertainty. It’s hard to compute, hard to generate one straightforward answer to the ever-vexing question why. We don’t need that answer, and we shouldn’t seek it. It will never come.