Thursday, October 11, 2012

Knowing That You Don't Know

Not knowing is fine; but not knowing that you don't know (aka thinking that you know when you don't) = big problem.

“Not ignorance, but ignorance of ignorance is the death of knowledge” - Alfred North Whitehead

Is there a particular type of person that just tick you off immensely?  Someone who you just can't stand being around with; so much so that you just wanna get the hell out ASAP or you know things would get ugly.  Well, some say that in most cases, what you hate in others is what you hate about yourself.  So what do I find absolutely disturbing in others?  It's just one word really: IGNORANCE.

I'm not talking about being oblivious of something, because all of us have something that we don't know of.  I'm talking about a person who thinks he knows about something when in reality, he has absolutely no clue.  The moment a person claims to know what he doesn't, he becomes a fool.  It annoys me even more when I happen to know enough about the subject to be certain that he is wrong.  

Socrates was considered to be the wisest by Apollo simply because he knew that he didn't know. 

So I appear to be wiser, at least than him, in just this one small respect: that when I don't know things, I don't think that I do either.
Are you aware that it's always those who know very little that generalize everything, thinking that everything is black and white in plain sight (check youtube comments for quick examples).

It's those who know how much they don't know that realize they can't really say much of anything for certain but merely offering suggestions and insights; this uncertainty, this openness, is what leads to new discoveries in the future.  It's like how experts rarely give you a straight answer about anything.  You know why?  Because the world isn't that simple! (Although it is in some way)  A Chinese idiom depicts this perfectly: "great intelligence may appear to be stupidity (大智若愚)".

In the Dhammapada, the Buddha has this to say about fools:

"There is no fellowship with fools."
"Free from the sight of fools,One would constantly be happy.
One who keeps company with foolsWill grieve for a long, long time.
Living with fools is painful,As is living with foes."
"There is no companionship with a fool;It is better to go alone.
Travel alone, at ease, doing no evilLike the elephant in the forest"
But what is a fool according to the Buddha?
"A fool conscious of her foolishness is to that extent wise."

So, be a wise fool, being aware of what you know and don't know.

Let's look at what Tao Te Ching has to say about this:

Chapter 71 
1. One who knows what he doesn't know. 
2. Is the best. 
3. One who doesn't know but think he knows. 
4. It's a sickness. 
5. A wise man has no sickness. 
6. He treated a sickness as a sickness. 
7. Because he knows his sickness as a sickness. 
8. Hence, he has no sickness.

Pretty much the exact same thing.

It's a little surprising how much I hate the fool inside me.  Meeting a fool last month caused me to be in agony every time that fool appeared in my mind for one full week!  I can't even stand such a fool being in my thought; I just lost it.  This could serve as evidence that I myself can be a fool sometimes as much as I avoid being one.  Aversion is really something, just as Buddha has said.

The three poisons or the three unwholesome roots (ignorance, attachment, and aversion) giving rise to suffering.

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