Realizing everyday ignorance

Sometimes, it strikes you how much you don’t know. It’s humbling. I look around and wonder at how much there is to the people around me, my surroundings, and the metaphysical world, yet how little of it I perceive.

In a conversation between two people, do you ever contemplate how much is going on? Two people. Each thinking of things to say. Saying them. And listening to the other person — all in the same time period. They think and talk at the same time. How amazing is that? Most of the words we say are not completely pre-planned in our minds. We do both at once. Out of these electrical impulses in the brain, thoughts burst out, spoken in sentences. This is a mystery psychologists still don’t understand.

Then there’s nonverbal communication: some intentional, some subconscious. Dr. James Borg claims that 93% of a human communication is nonverbal. We move our eyes, eyebrows, and mouth in various ways that communicate what’s inside us. We hold our head at a particular tilt, put our hands somewhere, stand or sit, turn our body a certain way, etc.

But how much of this do we realize when we talk? I can’t comprehend everything that is going on in one conversation! I wish I was more perceptive. One time I heard a portrait artist talk about how much she can tell about a person’s character by looking at their face as they interact. I hardly ever notice how a person tilts their head, but she does. Again, more I don’t know. I can’t understand the fullness of the information coming at me when I have a conversation, or all the nonverbal messages I’m giving without realizing it. Can you?

Lately, in verywhere I look, in everything I do, I’m struck by my ignorance. I’m living in the Asian continent. What a different culture. I see people do and say things, but I don’t know the language and the culture is so foreign to me I don’t know why they do it. I can only make educated guesses.

Even what I look at a wall, what do I know? There is so much there I don’t see, or what I see is different from what others see. I’ve heard it said every person sees a color differently. I see a light brown wall, but another may see it a few points darker or lighter. The wall has a history — it was built and painted and glanced at by men I don’t know, who probably spoke a language foreign to me. I don’t know how it was built. The wall is currently covered with microbes I can’t see. It is made of atomic particles yet smaller.

Forgive me if this seems a mundane, ridiculous exercise, but I think it’s healthy to think about all you don’t know. We are truly very, very small creatures, even the strongest, brightest, and most beautiful of us. This is why God makes so much sense. There is One who does know everything there is to know. And if He exists, the existence of things and our limited knowledge of them is not meaningless.

And God. There’s a mystery. How can finite beings know an infinite being? We must need his help. What’s more, who are we to question God’s wisdom? It makes no sense to pass judgment on a Being who has all knowledge due to conclusions you’ve made based on your profoundly minute knowledge. But I do it anyway. I judge God all the time. This little know-nothing.

Why do I do this? I guess I don’t know…


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