No Ledge

I was reading a philosophy book recently and stumbled upon a random line break. The word “knowledge” jumped to another page, splitting into “know-ledge.” This led me to “no ledge,” a metaphor expressing the essence of knowing as I’ve approached it since college.

Pragmatic people see education as building a foundation of facts and figures, a baseline for measuring objective truths. They think that learning enhances mastery over the world, that it’s a tool used to increase confidence and stability.

But dynamic thinking is all about vertigo and disorientation. It’s a shock to your system. Searching for a different angle, you look out the window of your high-rise apartment and find there is no ledge. How far will you stick your neck out to glimpse what lies below?

Most people venturing into the unknown have a fallback plan that maintains the status quo. If things get too scary, they retreat to their comfort zones. Thoughtful people ask serious questions with no clear solutions. Excited by the prospects of deeper truths, we devote our lives to following ideas wherever they lead. Sometimes we have to catch ourselves before tumbling all the way down.

All I Know–Part 5

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.