Examination of Knowledge and Quality of Life
Destiny presses for the growth of knowledge for all of us, so that we might be personally empowered to make the most of our individual lives, and so that we can contribute most effectively to the present and future of Humanity. This article addresses primarily the first consideration. Our personal wellbeing and our quality of life are most important to us as individuals, as they should be.
Why is this discussion important? Is it not obvious that our basic, self-centered nature will provide for our growth to meet our expectations? No, it is not at all clear or obvious, for ignorance is a constant leveling factor that speaks directly to how much of life we will experience and to the enjoyment of what we do experience.
We might then look at both major and minor areas of life for the individual and consider the implications of knowledge on the quality of life for each of us. Yet, is this not again so obvious as to make silly any detailed discussion? Well, if we have broad and deep knowledge of life, then indeed it would be silly to spend time so doing. And if we do not? Is not ignorance bliss? I hope that Destiny made clear the fundamental point that ignorance is certainly not bliss.
It thus appears that we need to concentrate on the impact of proximate ignorance on our individual lives. We will forget about the impact of our personal ignorance on society as a whole for the moment, for that subject is rather different and appropriate to a different discussion. Besides, if I am typical, my self-interest supercedes larger considerations, and I would rather think about my needs first.
So it is that I care about those things of which I am aware that impact me directly. If I like food (and I do) then it is clear that I want the best in quality, quantity and variety that I can have, for all those things I enjoy eating. And how, do you suppose, do I know that what I enjoy eating is even remotely close to what is out there that I might enjoy? Is this not simply a matter of experience or age? Of course it is, and the point is that the earlier in my life that I gain broad knowledge, the longer I have to enjoy that which I have learned. Simple, isn't it?
Now we get to the aspect that underpins the old and stupid statement that "ignorance is bliss." In short, people who promote that type of thinking are looking only at what a person perceives life to be, rather than what it could be or is, external to the individual. Their logic is unassailable insofar as the confined truth of their claim. That is, if I don't know about something specific, or how I might enjoy it, then how can I miss it? Well, I cannot, though it is normal for me to "wish" for life to be better. Even if I can conceive of some situation better than the one I have, I can hardly miss what I conceive unless I believe it possible and sensible for me to achieve or obtain. That I cannot fly simply by wishing myself to levitate is a pragmatic understanding of a current physical reality. But what if I fail to explore the boundaries of my ignorance?
One might use the discovery of penicillin as a case in point. Before the discovery of penicillin, the options and effectivity of available antibiotics (primarily sulfas) were limited and of little or no use for some infections, and some people were fatally allergic to the available antibiotics. So, of course we could not miss penicillin for we did not have it. Does this mean that our perceptions at that time should have caused us to spend our time simply sterilizing our environments to the best of our ability? And if Fleming had so chosen to direct his activities to housecleaning, where would we be today?
Let us not belabor the point. The perception that life can be better is the foundation for all of our work in gaining knowledge and applying it. We conduct research precisely because we are aware of our ignorance and have learned that we can overcome it to our distinct advantage. This same logic applies to all of us common people. Our personal research may be comparatively mundane, but it is critical to our enjoyment of all that life has to offer of which we are aware. Our contentment with our "lot in life" is a true measure of our perception of that which we might gain vs. our belief in ourselves. If I am elderly or in severely poor health, I do not expect to have the energy to break new ground, but that is about the only reasonable excuse that anyone might have for acquiescing to a static life.
What about our beliefs regarding our children and their knowledge? Do we find naiveté or "innocence" desirable? Is it cute to be ignorant? I hope not, for naiveté is weakness and the very idea of innocence implies that knowledge equals guilt for some unspecified crime or sin. Do note the biblical passages in the book of Genesis that so aptly put down human effort to learn. What a clever human strategy for keeping us ignorant, subordinate to authority, and suspicious of those who would tweak us about our ignorance! What pathetic consequences we find in our laws, and in our unconscious acceptance of the notion that it is okay to be naive. It is essential to realize that pursuit of knowledge in our lives, to make them better, is in great contrast or dissonance with any and all teachings that entertain ignorance as a desirable or correct state of Humanity, including the development of our children. There is no time when ignorance, naiveté or "innocence" is okay, unless, of course, you have a compulsion to play God.
Personal expectations must be tempered with realism, however, for each of us has inherent limits, genetic and environmental, that do put semi-firm boundaries around us. Within those boundaries, however, there is often much room to explore to our personal advantage. It seems that our attitudes are the determining factor in our curiosity to learn and propensity to try new things. Let us remember then, that the formation of our attitudes is key to our success, or our failure. Anything that tends to petrify or confine your development of positive attitudes and subsequent actions is the enemy. You may be the enemy. Your society may be the enemy.
You might realize that the confluence of modern industry, agriculture and global commerce can positively impact our human ability to enjoy life better, for we have obvious ability as a species to produce beyond our needs. You might also realize that the distribution of all the wonderful things that we can have is not uniform. Those who work to create and produce the latest and the best do not feel any obligation to provide the fruits of their work to those who will not contribute. Why should they? That I exist is no justification for me to claim that I am owed anything from anyone. In short, of all the fruits of society that I might have, it is up to me to earn my way, regardless of their availability, and I must start that process by developing my knowledge.
The above thoughts immediately open the door for considerations of capitalism vs. socialism. I suspect that you do not need any long discussion of what these are, but, in the context of this discussion, capitalism is the belief that we each are responsible to row our individual boats to achieve our goals, while socialism is the belief that the products of society belong to everyone, regardless of their personal achievements. Do note that, regardless of your personal beliefs in that regard, capitalism tends to make slaves, street-people, or ghetto dwellers of the non-producers, while socialism makes slaves of the producers. Neither works to the benefit of all.
If you are a socialist, you have no inherent reason to work harder or more creatively than those around you. If you are a capitalist, you have every reason to excel for your personal gain. In the worst case scenarios, advanced socialism is seen to result in stagnant societies, while advanced capitalism is seen to result in rigid class structures re wealth. Is not then the real point that we must get beyond the inherent limits of both systems? Today, we have a cultural and economic mix of both in the USA. There are socialism programs in the midst of rampant capitalism and major class differences. It is a confused mess.
What can be done about making our lives better? The answer is that situation where we can compete equally and choose to do so for our enlightened self-interest. You have undoubtedly seen the Destiny version of that answer. To evolve beyond our weak social and economic systems we must increase the inherent abilities of everyone equally. That sounds like socialism, and indeed, it is. Yet, it makes demands on individuals for their subsequent personal success just like capitalism. Thus, to gain knowledge on behalf of enjoying a better life is the fundamental point.
Now, we have come full circle in looking at societal and individual aspects of gaining knowledge for advancement. It turns out that they are one and the same. The mere facts that I am curious to learn and anxious to apply my knowledge for my personal gain are the basis for my enhancing my enjoyment of life and simultaneously making better the society in which I live. Provided, of course, that I am restricted from making slaves of my fellow humans, i.e. checks and balances on my accumulated wealth. But we simply must move ahead to "equal ability" if we are to have "equal potential" to find success.
In the meantime, please consider the importance of stretching your knowledge and your experiences to make your life the very best it can be. Do not hide. Explore and do. It really is fun to grow and to experience a full life. And it is okay to fail multiple times in your attempts to do so, regardless of your age. Simply note that the mere passing of time erases us as individuals. There is no permanent significance in our individual failed attempts to achieve success beyond that which we believe possible. There is no eternal scorekeeper or permanent embarrassment.