Today’s post was written by JK Riki: animator, blogger, and creator of Fred the Monkey. (FtM is a Homestar Runner-esque collection of web cartoons; I discovered the site a few years back.) As a blog run by monkeys, Typewriter Monkey Task Force is honored to share JK’s reflections on how little we know. For more great stuff from JK, check out his blog and Twitter. You may also want to swing by Animator Island, for which he writes.
I listed one of my 2015 goals on my blog as “Write a guest post for somewhere.” A big thanks to Adam for allowing me to commandeer his blog for the day.
In trying to determine what my goal-achieving guest post might be about, I poked around Typewriter Monkey Task Force to get a feel for its style and purpose. What I found was an amazing collection of thoughts and writings from a clearly deep individual. I started to worry whatever I came up with might not meet the level of aptitude already found on TMTF. (I included the word aptitude here specifically to try to elevate my game.)
[Editor’s note: I did not bribe JK to say nice things about my blog, I swear! He’s just a really kind person.]
Since there is no lack of depth in the topics of this blog, now seems as good a time as any to wade a bit deeper into the Great Pool of Thought and submit a few ideas that most people never bother with. A large number of our human species is content to go about the day-to-day and never really step back to consider alternative perspectives. I love alternative perspectives. Their greatest gift is a swift kick in the rear and exclamation of “There’s so much you don’t know, don’t forget that.”
So I share with you this simple truth: One of the best things you can ever achieve is the realization of how much you don’t know.
There’s a time and place for confidence, of course. If you’re performing brain surgery on someone, that might not be the best time to ponder string theory, dimensional variants, or that cutting into this person’s brain may be affecting atoms directly on another planet someplace light years away and who knows what havoc that is causing.
But when not engrossed in an activity where lives hang in the balance, consider stopping and thinking about how limited we are as humans. We can’t hear color. We can’t smell intention. We don’t know what we don’t know. Think about that. There are things we can’t imagine. They are beyond the scope of our understanding and reality. Yet that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. They could be (and very likely are) floating around us at this very moment, beyond our human senses.
What I discover any time I do this exercise of remembering how little I know is that suddenly I’m a lot more compassionate of everyone around me.
People who know more than me in some areas, and less in others, are in the same boat I am. We’re all on this journey of life, and all at different places on the road. Though it baffles me when I meet someone twice my age who hasn’t realized basic truths I’ve learned, I have more patience with them, knowing there’s plenty I have yet to realize myself. While it’s frustrating to speak with a teenager who “has it all figured out,” I’m able to remember I also once had “it all figured out,” sure that I knew everything there was to know. And in that moment I’m deeply grateful for the knowledge of how little knowledge I actually have. I never want to go back to thinking I knew it all. Dangerous pride lies in wait there.
Of course, any time you take a trip to the deep end of the pool it’s essential that you carry along a life preserver, and that you make certain it’s firmly attached to something that will not let you drown. When you take a swim in deeper thought, and consider the vastness of the universe seen and unseen, I highly recommend tossing the end of that rope to God. He never lets you drown, and He also knows what’s in the very depths of the pool. Plus He’s unbelievably patient. He won’t wander off and leave the rope tied to a fence post!
I have, in the past, handed the rope to people I trusted. Unfortunately, people fail. We’re only human. It is what it is. We don’t mean to let others drown, we just aren’t strong enough to pull them back, and we get distracted easily. So just be careful if you decide to sit and ponder today. The water is warm, but very deep, and we often overestimate our swimming abilities. Take along with you a helping hand, and by all means dive in and see what you see.
What you’ll find is truly amazing.