A list of what one knows is bound to present problems.
Since personal truths are fluid and all truth-holders are in constant flux in an ever-changing world, what we profess to “know” will not sit still. There’s a larger issue here, though. We have very few original ideas but instead retain the thoughts of others, incorporating their voices into our mental frameworks. Even the words I’m using right now are not mine alone because they have been spoken and/or written by many people before I existed. (I learned this concept from reading Mikhail Bakhtin.) My point is that many of the ideas expressed here are not wholly mine. They aren’t “stolen” from others, however; they’re simply interesting thoughts floating through the breezy skies of my meditative mind.
Writing is a way of knowing.
Rather than merely recording facts and figures in prose form, astute writers actually learn something important about their subject matter and life in general. When I defend a thesis in an essay, I assume responsibility for the point(s) I am trying to convey. My writing is an expression of me, and in order for others to process it, my words/sentences/paragraphs must be devised carefully so that my readers may “see” my thoughts and determine if my ideas “make sense.” If my writing is fused with my thinking, I gain mastery over a small portion of knowledge, becoming an active member in the conversation of mankind. Not simply a discourse about something we know, writing is knowing.
Our areas of expertise influence how we view the world and our place in it.
Doctors see life in medical terms, just as lawyers look through legal glasses. This is known as “professional deformation,” and it’s a concept that demonstrates how our specific training and personal strengths and preferences often blind us to alternative ways of perceiving things. A related point here is the notion that “the view contains the viewer,” or that the physical and psychological qualities that make up who we are–our gender, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, age, personal histories and experiences, education, political leanings, favorite sports team, etc.–are implicit in our interpretations, and this affects how we see the world. Taking this principle a step further, we discover that objectivity is impossible because we cannot avoid our subjective selves. In being myself, I always encounter myself.
Free will is more vital than freedom.
Prisoners understand this concept quite clearly. The courts have taken away their freedom by placing them in jail cells, but no one can lock up a person’s free will. We each think our own thoughts in our own heads and are free to make our own choices. An inmate, who by definition has been denied freedom, still may choose how he views his situation and what he might do to survive his confinement. These choices are available to all of us, no matter how much freedom we possess. In the end, freedom is contingent upon many factors, but free will knows no bounds.
Ethics, not morals, matter.
When we speak of morals, a religious connotation is usually implied. Morals, though, are a person’s or a society’s opinions of how we should (or should not) act and often are attributed to God or some higher guiding force. Today we need ethics, or codes of personal conduct that seek to prevent people from taking advantage of each other. Business people, for example, need their own form of ethics, as do medical professionals and newspaper reporters. To put it simply, morals are expressions of what one “thinks” is right or wrong, while ethics are carefully crafted sets of procedures that direct a person to act responsibly toward all people, all the time.
Both nature (genetics) and nurture (environment) affect who we are as individuals.
We are given certain qualities at birth over which we have limited control and these shape us in countless ways. This, of course, is not the whole picture, as our experiences and our responses to them mold us also. In general, our genetic predispositions are either expressed or repressed based upon the environments in which we reside. A computer metaphor helps here: We have a hard drive (nature) but we can add, subtract or modify numerous types of software (nurture) that we choose to introduce to our operating systems.
The headline of this post is the title of a Sonic Youth song in which Thurston Moore declares that: “I’m yours and you’re mine / And that’s all I know right now.” What will follow here (one item per day for each of the next seven days) is not a love song but is instead a short, randomly-ordered list of all I know right now. Enjoy!
There is no ultimate Meaning of Life; each of us gives meanings to his or her own life and, by extension, the lives of others.
Everything that occurs in one’s life is, by nature, neutral as it develops. It simply is. We process and assign values to our experiences after they happen to us. This is not to say that life is meaningless; in fact, it is rife with endless meanings, all of which we supply and then call our own. The universe never tells us how to live, but we all have the ability to make (and later change) meanings for ourselves.