My Existential Crisis
Guys, I don’t really know anything. Not really. I mean, I think I know stuff, I believe I know things, but it’s really just me filling that void inside me that knows it won’t truly know anything.
And that bugs me because I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to things like that. I research like a maniac when I make a stance on something. I have to look at all sides of something before I make any kind of decision on where I stand, but today I had a chilling thought: I don’t actually know anything for sure.
I mean this in the practical sense. I can read studies and counter-studies, look at all sides of an argument, but on some level, I’m trusting what other people come up with.
How do I know that carbs are metabolized into fat if they’re not used for energy? Well, I read it. And I whole-heartedly believe that, even though I don’t have any experience or empirical evidence in my life to demonstrate the truth of that to me. For a lot of my knowledge, I rely on the expertise and honesty of others.
I’m not saying this is a bad thing, I just want you to break down your thought-process enough to where you realize that there are very few things you actually know. As an evolving society, we share knowledge and experience to grow together. In that sense, human beings have a sort of hive-mind. There’s a constant exchange of information and wisdom happening 24/7. Something is discovered, something gets refuted, and on and on it goes.
Gimme That Knowledge
Aside from the weird, meta-physicial anxiety it gives me to know that very little of what I consider my “knowledge” is actually verifiable, there’s a certain humility to it that I love. This is how the world works. This is how intelligent beings operate. We give the knowledge we have to others so they don’t have to experience the same things. Good and bad.
As a collective, as a species, we are a young toddler fumbling through the cosmic uncertainty. But our ability to learn from one another is what gives us such an edge. Animals do it too. When one ape learns that she can use a certain branch to get to fruit high up in a tree, she demonstrates it to others so they all can benefit. The other apes didn’t need to have that exact experience to trust her judgment. By trusting the knowledge she gained and shared, they were all better off.
1984 or 2018?
What’s difficult with humans is motive. We’re extremely intelligent, but that also gives us the capacity to deceive and lie. Where and who we obtain our knowledge may be as important as the information itself. How do we judge what is credible and what isn’t?
I certainly don’t have all the answers and don’t claim to, but we have to be careful in an age when information is so easily obtained and shared. When Joe Shmoe can share his thoughts and opinions from the interior of his sedan on Facebook and everybody takes it as fact, we have a problem. What I love about knowledge and information is that it can be corroborated. A fact is a fact and if you can find other sources that verify a piece of information, it’s a good sign. Still not a guarantee, but a good sign.
I’m sure Orwell is turning in his grave to hear phrases like “alternative facts” being used. That’s dangerous ground to be on because there is no such thing. That’s basically the equivalent of saying:
“That’s a lie.”
“No, it’s not. It’s an untruth.”
There are always drawbacks with progress. We have the great privilege to have almost unlimited access to information, but we have to be responsible with how we release and consume this information.
I don’t think things are as bad as they seem sometimes, i.e. altruism isn’t dead. We really live in an amazing time where the ability to stay conscious and informed is easier than ever. Just remember though, you may think you know things, but how can you be sure? And with that mind-bending thought, I bid you all adieu.