The art of not-knowing (and understanding my dad)

dad. attempts at an unaccurate portrayal.

(c) Arne Schoenvuur: dad. attempts at an unaccurate portrayal.

In our culture, we have no relationship with not-knowing. But not-knowing is the essence of receiving. –Mary Saunders

Not-knowing is the essence of receiving.

Great words by Mary Saunders. And by my dad.

My dad and I share one passion: we are eager to know.

We both want to figure out how stuff works, we both want to discover how people got things done, and why stuff works the way it works.

While he has a more scientific and theoretic approach I’m more an empirical-kind-of-guy.

For years it was like we were speaking a different language. I found it hard to understand what he was talking about.

And it seemed as he found himself more or less in the same situation.

We knew what the other person said, but there was no connection. At least, not like the one there is now.

What changed then?

Well, we both grew older.

But our conversations changed as well, that is, they changed because we I started to listen in a different way.

We both I came to realize that a lot of stories talk about the same things, that these stories are expressions of the same desires, the same emotions, the same human drives, only expressed in different ways and words.

I wonder how many of us feel misunderstood every day while it just might be that we were talking about the exact same things without either of us realizing it.

Makes me think of something Edward De Bono explained me once when talking about people’s difficulties with dealing with different points-of-view.

De Bono drew a house with one person in front of it, another at the back. They were talking to each other over the phone, arguing (fiercely) about how the house looked (from their point of view).

Both of them were trying to convince the other that there point of view was the right one, that their description of the house fitted reality more properly.

Both of them were right, but that was beside the point.

The real issue here was that neither of them could even begin to understand that they were actually talking about same house and that the other point-of-view was as much a part of reality as theirs.

I feel like me and my dad have finally met at the same side of the house and started walking together around the house, both discovering even new sides to the stories of life.

And one of the greatest things I’ve came to discover is that we both share a deep respect for not-knowing, that we both believe mankind was brought into this world as one big question and a lifelong answer wich is only a small but nonetheless important part of an answer stretches far beyond any individual lifetime.

Thanks dad. You’re a great person.

When we share – that is poetry in the prose of life. –Sigmund Freud

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2 thoughts on “The art of not-knowing (and understanding my dad)

  1. Yes I remember.

    One wonders why it is so hard for us to accept that there are several truths which are absolutely valid at the same time even though it seems like it’s impossible for them to co-exist.

    Could it be the way we were educated? In school there’s often no room for different truths. In fact, different contradictary truths mean anarchy and danger (you lose points and you might even fail because of a conflicting truth).

    That’s not entirely true. In fact, the teachers I loved the most were those who appreciated a different approach to their subjects.

    They listened to what I had to say, challenged me to pursue my own truths, if only to find out they were not that interesting after all. And as they were willing to listen to me, I was in fact much more willing to listen to them.

    If you talk about your truth as being objective, you actually shut people out. You deny yourself access to their reality (which is as much yours as it is theirs, they only perceive it in a different way).

    But I’ve also had people taking advantage of my openness, of allowing them to see my truth as being relative, as being just my truth. Respect works both ways, I guess.

  2. doriennmien says:

    Hannes, I like the house comparison. It’s true: lots of people talk about the same thing but just don’t see it. Great that you have found out that’s also true for your dad and you. Remember all those ‘objectivity exists’ discussions during journalism class? Also a matter of at whih side of the house you are standing I guess.

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