I put this disclaimer on one of my more involved and thought filled posts (The Road to Entropy):

Knowledge is limiting. Knowledge is static. Understanding is limitless. Understanding is fluid. I lay no claim to knowledge. I do lay claim to understanding.

The primary weakness of the following is that it is written with words. Words lie in the realm of knowledge. They often try to shape the shapeless; define that which has no definition. Knowledge is described in words. Understanding goes beyond words. Yet the path to understanding often must be gained by playing with knowledge – thus the necessity for words. Is any of it correct? Is any of it true? It is my belief that truth is in the heart of the beholder.

It should be the disclaimer for my life. Maybe I will make it into a business card.

When I was younger, I used to crave knowledge. I wanted to “know” everything. As I got older, I started realizing how limiting “knowing” is. Knowledge is about collecting facts. Learning facts allows you to be sure of yourself. Until you find out your facts are wrong. It is like your brain is a bag, which you are filling up with little pebbles. Eventually you have a very heavy bag filled with pebbles, and no room for more unless you lose some … or do something to the bag. And while this bag may have its uses, it is basically an unwieldy thing that is difficult to lug about.

Understanding, on the other hand, is about relationships and patterns. Sure facts may be necessary, but understanding allows for the flexibility of facts. Understanding also allows unrestricted room for facts yet to be discovered. Knowledge allows room for new facts, but the existing facts determine what new facts will fit. If knowledge is a bag filled with pebbles, understanding is a bag filled with the thoughts of pebbles. There still may be limits (i.e. the bag), but because a thought is insubstantial, for all practical purposes the bag is limitless.

Understanding flows with change. Knowledge is static. Understanding adjusts itself as facts change. Knowledge can only replace. And there must be a willingness to replace. With understanding, if you see a pebble that does not match the other pebbles, you can just incorporate it into the pattern of pebbles. With knowledge, your space is limited. When you are young, you can simply add it to the bag. However as you get older there is less room, so you need to either ignore the new pebble, or replace an existing pebble. Which is easy enough if the existing pebble is near the surface of the bag (a recent fact). But practically impossible if the inconsistent pebble  is at the bottom of the bag.

Knowledge leads to inflexibility.

So these days, I crave understanding instead. I still learn as much as I can, but as I frequently say:

I have learned much, but I KNOW nothing.


0 thoughts on “Understanding

  1. I crave knowledge. I love to learn things. Once I was a precocious child full of promise. Now I’m an adult, and the keeper of obtuse information. Funny, but it suits me. I like knowing stupid shit. Stupid shit can’t hurt you. Worrying about politics, religion, the weather; things others dwell on…these things can hurt you. These things you puzzle, fret, and work yourself up over. Things you can’t change and make you sick.
    I found out long ago that the more you analyze something, the more information you gather about it, the more complicated you make it. Most things, situations, and people are simple. You have a question and there’s a straight-forward answer to it. Unfortunately, we clutter it with a bunch of unnecessary stuff that makes us crazy. I say that from experience. Thus, the whole ‘third’ marriage thing.
    Knowledge is necessary, but I agree it’s less important than the wisdom that comes from common sense, understanding, and acceptance. Ahh…acceptance. Now that’s when you know you’re truly educated.

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