The Beauty of [Not] Knowing


Think for a second when was the last time you learned something new? When was the last time when all of a sudden, everything aligned to make perfect sense? When was the last time that you acquired a new skill?

Now go a little further, and think of the place you where when this learning happened…

Not surprisingly, learning something new is not confined to a specific place. In my opinion, the equation only involves two variables: having curiosity and having fun. It is true, we sometimes learn things the hard way: by failing at something, or by working incredibly hard to reach a certain goal. But either way, mistakes are usually transformed into lessons. And working too hard on something may lead to actually like it.

The truth is, life lessons are usually hidden behind feared setbacks, which actually turn mistakes into unexpected achievements. And practice, practice is a whole other story… I’m only sure that if you do a lot of it, great things happen.

But if my premise is right…

… and learning only involves being curious and having fun, why doesn’t it happens more often? Why is it difficult to think of the last time that we truly learnt something new?

Well, it might be because we are used to think about it in a certain way. We are used to relate learning with schools, and teachers, and papers, and the truth is, knowledge is not always acquired inside a classroom. But, what is true knowledge, anyway? And what if we’ve been interpreting it all wrong all this time? What if knowledge was actually the beauty of not-knowing?

We live in a culture that is obsessed with certainty and definite answers, when it is humility in the face of what remains to be known, instead of knowledge itself, what drives innovation, discovery, creativity, faith…

Alexandra Horowitz once said:

We strive toward knowledge […] but must understand that we are, and will remain, surrounded by mystery… It is the flirting with this mystery, the urge to go beyond the boundaries of the known, that feeds our creative impulse, that makes us want to know more…

Our imagination thrives from what we don’t know and what we don’t understand. True knowledge is an open-ended pursuit (and a very humble one). It requires the uncomfortable luxury of asking questions and changing our mind.

Asking questions starts with curiosity. And changing your mind can actually be fun. Paradoxically, it is in the moment when we start feeling comfortable with not knowing, when curiosity drives us to actually learn more.

What, then, are the unanswerable questions that you have never dared to ask?

“To lose the appetite for meaning we call thinking and cease to ask unanswerable questions [would be to] lose not only the ability to produce those thought-things that we call works of art but also the capacity to ask all the answerable questions upon which every civilization is founded.” (Hanna Arendt)

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