Monday, March 2, 2009

Weird Ways 3/02/09

One has to court doubt and darkness as the cost of knowing.

Morris West
Here we go.
One of the strangest places I was ever in was a small city in the Southwest that was built literally in the middle of the desert. There was a road that came into town, but it didn't go through it. I walked to the end of the road and I was on the edge of the city, There was a sidewalk. Houses were built along the side walk. It turned a right angle and there were more houses, with back yards, trees. bushes and children playing in the yards But when you stepped off the sidewalk you stepped immediately into the desert. If you turned your back to the houses all you would see in front of you was desert. I don't remember the name of that city or what state it was in, but I imagine it has expanded out into that desert by now.

I often think of that experience of taking a single step from civilization into wilderness. To me it was the same as taking a step from the safe and known into the dark world of ignorance. Ignorance is not a bad thing. Stupidity is bad, ignorance is not the same thing. When able to admit my ignorance about something, I am poised to step into the wild world of darkness and doubt. If I take that step it could be scary. What some people call foolishness, other people call courage. One has to agree to walk in darkness before one can see the light.

If some did not have the courage to peer into a telescope or a microscope, to crawl around in dark caves or on the ocean floor, or peek into the machinations of the human mind, we wouldn't know anything.

I once visited a Museum of Philosophy. In it there was a computer program that asked me a series of questions about my beliefs and opinions. Then it came up with a list of philosophers whose writings, more or less, conformed to my own philosophy of things. I thought, how nice, I can read the works of great writers who agree with me. I could bask in the easy sunshine of coordinate thinking.

It didn't take but a few days before I became bored with that idea, and went searching out the rare and troublesome works of thinkers who were antagonistic to my easy, sunny, back porch studies and who posed ideas that were difficult to understand and even harder to harmonize with what I thought was true. I began to grapple with new ideas. Some of them were very ancient, but they were new to me. And I found dark and doubtful places in my own thinking that needed to have a microscope trained on them.

Oh, I'm still ignorant. Who isn't? But that part of my vagabond journey has been fascinating, fulfilling and infuriating. And I won't stop until I know something.

May you hear the silent, distant winds of Spring.


salemslot9 said...

it'll be nice to open
the windows, again

Gerry said...

I have often ended up somewhere I did not plan to be at that stage in life like in a cosmetic factory putting together makeup kits on an assembly line, but before that job ended I felt I had a great deal of insight about how it must have felt to be a galley slave and a bunch more occupations doing the same thing over and over as fast as possible. I realized that we couldn't have a lot of modern conveniences making life easier for the many if there weren't people to work assembly lines, still, 8 hours a day!

Beth said...

I've always said that while I don't have an issue with ignorance, I DO have one with willful ignorance.


Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

Ingorance is bliss, stupidity is proceeding when you know it is folly.

Anonymous said...

Your trip to that strange city reminds me of my strange dreams, always ending up in unknown strange places. But speaking of spring, it has sprung in my neighborhood. My air conditioner is already doing its duty.