The Oil Spill is Only a Symptom
The Gulf oil spill is a minor skin rash that is of great importance primarily because it signals us of the presence of a disease capable of destroying our civilization.
The herd is stampeding toward the cliffs and there is an unsophisticated horde of riders in the rear shooting and shouting in the attempt to drive the stampeding herd forward faster and faster. Only an intellectually sophisticated citizenry can comprehend and help cure the disease.
Caring is necessary for understanding; caring cannot begin until we first “feel” a necessity for caring. The skin rash of the oil spill can serve as that feeling.
I have for some time been interested in trying to understand what ‘understand’ means. I have reached the conclusion that ‘curiosity then caring’ is the first steps toward understanding. Without curiosity we care for nothing. Once curiosity is in place then caring becomes necessary for understanding. Understanding is a wok of art; it is a creation of meaning.
I suspect our first experience with ‘understanding’ may be our first friendship. I think that this first friendship may be an example of what Carl Sagan meant by “Understanding is a kind of ecstasy”.
I also suspect that the boy who falls in love with automobiles and learns everything he can about repairing the junk car he bought has discovered ‘understanding’.
I suspect many people go their complete life and never have an intellectual experience that culminates in the “ecstasy of understanding”. How can this be true? I think that our educational system is designed primarily for filling heads with knowledge and hasn’t time to waste on ‘understanding’.
Understanding an intellectual matter must come in the adult years if it is to ever come to many of us. I think that it is very important for an adult to find something intellectual that will excite his or her curiosity and concern sufficiently so as to motivate the effort necessary to understand.
Understanding does not come easily but it can be “a kind of ecstasy”.
I think of understanding as being a creation of meaning by the thinker. As one attempts to understand something that person will construct through imagination a model; like a papier-mâché of meaning.
Like an artist painting her understanding of something. As time goes by the model takes on what the person understands about that which is studied. The model is very subjective and you and I may study something for some time and we both have learned to understand it but if it were possible to project an image of our model they would be unidentifiable perhaps by the other. Knowledge has a universal quality but not always understanding.
Understanding is a tipping point, when water becomes ice, it is like a gestalt perception it may never happen no matter how hard we try. The unconscious is a major worker for understanding. Understanding is that rare occasion when there develops a conflation of emotion and intellection.
Often I find understanding waiting for me when I awaken one morning after months of searching and studying.