The idea of understanding

When do we really understand something?

This is a question that popped into my mind one day, and has kept me busy ever since. Understanding was always quite clear to me, possibly through my interest in physics: Observe something (or someone) enough, find patterns and trends and finally draw conclusions resulting in the understanding of something. For example in basic physics: If you observe something for long enough, like an apple falling towards the ground and then stopping when it gets there, you can draw the conclusion that: ‘if you drop an apple, it will fall and stop when it hits the ground.’ and understand that apples fall towards the ground and don’t launch into the sky upon release.

All this is fine until someone asks a question you had not prepared for, or someone (or something) behaves differently than expected to your conclusions and understandings. Questions like ‘Why does the apple fall?’ or ‘Why doesn’t it go through the floor?’ and situations like someone having lost a close-ish family member (like an uncle or aunt), you expecting them to be sad but they are not sad at all, or they are truly indifferent. Both put you in a situation of doubt or uncertainty. The question makes you doubt your understanding, making your hard work feel like it’s worth less.

A situation like someone’s indifference to a family member’s death when you thought they would be sad makes you doubt your understandings of human behaviour, and as you might have realised you are a human too! So this doubt makes you doubt your understanding of yourself, and rather than questioning your own understanding it is easier for humans to defend themselves and their understandings, or even attack the person behaving wrongly. Statements like ‘What’s wrong with him?’, ‘He’s not right.’ or ‘he should feel sad!’ start to arise before thinking that you yourself are wrong.

That last statement is very interesting; people put so much value on their own understandings that they feel it is so much the absolute truth that others should obey their truths, that they should behave according to your understandings.

The only time someone would truly, in his own mind, understand something is of he thought it all out for himself and does not talk to anyone about it, fence off his thoughts from all outside inputs that could contradict his understandings and be content with his own truth. He does then not know what’s wrong or incorrect about his truth, thus completely thinking it is correct which leads perfectly into the statement

Ignorance is bliss.

Thoughts?

Thanks for reading! 🙂

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