Ruminations

What have I Understood?

So the first recorded year in history is estimated to be the 30th century B.C.  To this claim too, there is very little evidence on which to base any substantial argument. I have always been extremely curious as to how they may have lived; most importantly what did they discuss? Or if they even discussed? But if they were humans like me and if they were in a world like mine then it is very unlikely that they didn’t have something to say.

The history then proliferated through the 30 centuries until Christ was born and then further toward us up until the 21st century. Through some of these times, we collected substantial data to inform us about their life and desires. Most of them only left clues to build a probable understanding of our ancestors.

The study of the past is called History, it is just as scientifically pursued as Biology or Physics.

The study of the Future is called Science wherein through a systematic format, we pursue explanations and predictions to make sense of our highly unpredictable world.

History is vulnerable to any new evidence that contradicts a previously held belief.  For Instance, till the 6th century B.C before the invention of zero, we counted;  and we build strong and magnificent monuments using those numbers.

However, Brahmagupta from India then introduced the Zero which in effect means nothing and has no value but it radically changed everything that was prevalent in that society and ours. We have been changing something as concrete as Mathematics almost immediately after we encounter a new challenge. One need not emphasise that all we believe is precarious unless substantiated by numbers.

Let’s talk about our immediate world; the topic of Climate change is unnerving on many levels. On one hand, 97% of scientists believe that we are on the brink of destroying everything we love and on the other hand the conversation starts with Climate Change is Not Real.

In spite of all the proof that our technology and expertise could provide, half the world is oblivious to this danger. Whether it is because of their political inclinations or shortsightedness, the bottom line is that even the educated are difficult to persuade if there is a doubt in the slightest.

All of this boils down to the realisation that we are a highly susceptible species. Unlike all other creatures, we are afraid of not knowing. Fear drives all the species but our fear mostly arises from not knowing what will happen. Hence, we insist on believing whatever convinces us most, if it also benefits our cause then we call them values.

When two parties defend their tentative perspectives is when we start to have disagreements.

Now as a teenager I was encouraged to debate, my mentor stressed the value of challenging your own views by stating them as your perspective and then taking into account what your adversary has to say about it.

He said, this way you will learn how to state your case efficiently, if it is challenged with questions you have no answers to, then well, someone has to learn more, but if you go unchallenged then voila, you have learnt something really well and you are now in the position to teach.  So following my mentor’s guidance, I debated with people. It wasn’t all rosy, I felt duped.

I went back to my mentor and asked him exactly why he encouraged me to debate when he knew full well that what he taught me is not common knowledge and that I could have found myself in a perilous situation if I was in the company of fundamentalists.

He smiled and asked me if I was confident in what I was debating? Indignantly, I replied in the affirmative. He then explained, that whom I call dangerous are people just like me, they believe in something passionately, not because they are evil but because like me, nobody has listened to their point of view with an open mind.

My mentors have always been people of very few words. So my homework for that day was to dwell on this statement. It took me a long while and reluctantly I had to admit that it is true. I have defended a notion fiercely in my past which, I, myself find ludicrous now. So all I had to do was keep an open mind, right?

Well, keeping an open mind is not as easy as one may imagine. If I listened to their point of view and then stated my own, then it was insincere and they could tell, hell, even I could tell. So I delved into all the books I could find on the subject and they all seemed to tell me that I can never be sure. No matter how much evidence I have to support my claim, I can still never be completely certain, just like the Mathematicians of India or the liberals of USA.

I came to realise, that our History is limited and subject to change by just an excavation, our Science is flimsy because there is plenty about our own environment that we keep discovering on a daily basis. So how would I know? How can anyone know? I now had a complete understanding of what Socrates meant when he referred to ‘Wise Ignorance’.

It is not easy to let go of the passion for one’s belief. However, I found that I can channel my passion toward my adversary instead. If I only think that my contender is just as clueless as I am then it becomes easier to hold their hand and say, ‘I understand’.

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