Truthful Moments …

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THE ERA OF INFORMATIONAL IMPATIENCE

I frequently lament a particularly prevalent pathology of our time – our extreme impatience with the dynamic process of attaining knowledge and transmuting it into wisdom. We want to have the knowledge, as if it were a static object, but we don’t want to do the work of claiming it – and so we reach for simulacra that compress complex ideas into listicles and two-minute animated explainers.

Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (August 27, 1770–November 14, 1831) wrote on the elements of this pathology in his masterwork, “The Phenomenology of Mind”:
“The goal to be reached is the mind’s insight into what knowing is. Impatience asks for the impossible, wants to reach the goal without the means of getting there. The length of the journey has to be borne with, for every moment is necessary; and again we must halt at every stage, for each is itself a complete individual form, and is fully and finally considered only so far as its determinate character is taken and dealt with as a rounded and concrete whole, or only so far as the whole is looked at in the light of the special and peculiar character which this determination gives it. Because the substance of individual mind, nay, more, because the universal mind at work in the world (Weltgeist), has had the patience to go through these forms in the long stretch of time’s extent, and to take upon itself the prodigious labour of the world’s history, where it bodied forth in each form the entire content of itself, as each is capable of presenting it; and because by nothing less could that all-pervading mind ever manage to become conscious of what itself is – for that reason, the individual mind … cannot expect by less toil to grasp what its own substance contains.”
Our mistaken conception of knowledge as a static object is also the root of our perilous self-righteousness and the tyranny of opinions. When you come right down to it, opinions are the most superficial things about anyone. Thus, Knowledge isn’t a matter of owning a truth by making it familiar and then asserting its ideal presentation, but quite the opposite – an eternal tango with the unfamiliar. So, true understanding requires that we demolish the familiar, overcome what psychologists have since termed the “backfire effect,” and cease clinging to the fixed points of our opinions.

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