“It is very important to be in love with life… Life is very fragile and always elusive. As soon as we think we ‘understand’, there is another mystery. I don’t understand anything. That is, I think, the key to understand everything” —Keith Haring
I read this a short while ago (thanks to the marginalian, a fabulous newsletter I can only recommend) and have been chewing on this ever since. People who know me or regularly read my letter know that I have this insatiable curiosity and need to understand things.
To me, this quote by Keith Haring is somewhat along the lines of
“I know that I know nothing” — Socrates
so rather philosophical, which is usually not my strong suit.
Here is a short version of this famous quote by Socrates as I know it:
A good friend of Socrates, once asked the Oracle at Delphi “Is anyone wiser than Socrates?”
The Oracle answered “No one.”
This greatly puzzled Socrates, since he claimed to possess no secret information or wise insight. As far as Socrates was concerned, he was the most ignorant man in the land.
Socrates was determined to prove the Oracle wrong. He toured Athens up and down, talking to its wisest and most capable people, trying to find someone wiser than he was.
What he found was that poets didn’t know why their words moved people, craftsmen only knew how to master their trade and not much else, and politicians thought they were wise but didn’t have the knowledge to back it up.
What Socrates discovered was that none of these people knew anything, but they all thought they did. Socrates concluded he was wiser than them because he at least knew that he knew nothing.
The question I asked myself when I read Haring’s quote for the first time was; Is it the admittance of not understanding anything or the surrender to not understanding anything that Haring is referring to?
Please be lenient with me as I am currently in uncharted territory – which I personally find rather exciting and have not the slightest idea where it will lead.
So let’s look at theory #1 – admittance of not understanding anything.
If you admit that you do not understand anything, does that mean admitting to being ignorant or even stupid?
Or is it a form of humble openness and admitting that nothing is set in stone and everything is subject to constant change?
Or is it perhaps even a form of arrogant indifference that is used as an excuse one likes to use when something is not going well? In the end, you don’t understand anything. What better excuse could there be?
When looking at these new questions I could be diplomatic and claim that all three have merit – which they probably do, depending on the situation. But if I am brutally honest (which is my strong suit), I would probably go for the second one – that everything is subject to constant change, hence, when you finally have understood something it changes and you start all over.
Theory #2 may appear to be similar at first but is actually quite different – surrender to not understanding anything.
This would mean a total acceptance of not understanding things and I admittedly struggle with that concept. It reminds me too much of a saying from a former colleague that drove me to despair the moment I first heard it – “acceptance without pain”.
Perhaps my personal philosophy – “you can only be understanding when you understand” – is absolute poppycock.
On the other hand, you can understand surrender to not understanding anything as a peace offering to the constant need to get to the bottom of everything and learning to let things go – a lesson I personally still struggle with at times.
I don’t believe my sense of understanding has ever been challenged more in my life than in the past two years. It is also something I am incapable of letting it go.
Every now and then I hear from friends and family that I shouldn’t get so upset. My answer is always the same: “Some things are just worth getting upset about”!
For me, indifference would be much worse. As long as I am still able to get upset, I am still able to distinguish right from wrong.
I am not sure that I am any wiser now – not that that was my intention – but it was fun to toy around with this a little. I know I just scratched the surface and I may come back to this some other time. I would very much love to know what you make of this and can’t wait for your comments and feedback.
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🎶My Song of the Week
No idea why I chose this one today, I just stumbled over it and wanted to share it…
📚My Poem of the Week
Is another by the Peoples Poet Edgar Albert Guest (1881-1959)
When I was young and frivolous and never stopped to think,
When I was always doing wrong, or just upon the brink;
When I was just a lad of seven and eight and nine and ten,
It seemed to me that every day I got in trouble then,
And strangers used to shake their heads and say I was no good,
But father always stuck to me — it seems he understood.
I used to have to go to him ‘most every night and say
The dreadful things that I had done to worry folks that day.
I know I didn’t mean to be a turmoil round the place,
And with the womenfolks about forever in disgrace ;
To do the way they said I should, I tried the best I could,
But though they scolded me a lot — my father understood.
He never seemed to think it queer that I should risk my bones,
Or fight with other boys at times, or pelt a cat with stones;
An’ when I’d break a window pane, it.used to make him sad,
But though the neighbors said I was, he never thought me bad;
He never whipped me, as they used to say to me he should;
That boys can’t always do what’s right — it seemed he understood.
Now there’s that little chap of mine, just full of life and fun,
Comes up to me with solemn face to tell the bad he’s done.
It’s natural for any boy to be a roguish elf,
He hasn’t time to stop and think and figure for himself,
And though the womenfolks insist that I should take a hand,
They’ve never been a boy themselves, and they don’t understand.
Some day I’ve got to go up there, and make a sad report
And tell the Father of us all where I have fallen short;
And there will be a lot of wrong I never meant to do,
A lot of smudges on my sheet that He will have to view.
And little chance for heavenly bliss, up there, will I command,
Unless the Father smiles and says: ” My boy, I understand.”
This is something I truly understand, the beauty of nature and of course Lake Starnberg
Wishing you a fabulous start to your weekend and please let me know what your take is on this!