“The limits of knowledge & the license of limits”


DESTRUCTION: Isn’t it a wonderful night? It reminds me of something our sister once said to me. It was a long time ago, a long way from here. There were rather more stars in the sky. And we met, under the jewelled waterfalls. And we walked. And I told her how small I felt, how I wished I … knew more, I suppose. We were looking up at the constellations — the diamond girl, the wreath of bright stars, the crucible… It didn’t matter that, in some sense, I was everywhere; nor that I was more powerful than… well, practically everything.

She said we all not only could know everything. We do. We just tell ourselves we don’t to make it all bearable.

MORPHEUS: It sounds unlikely.

DESTRUCTION: That was what I said to her. I said, if they do that, why do they keep wandering around and falling down manholes and tripping on banana skins? Why does it seem like none of us — Endless or mortal, ghost or god — knows what we’re doing?

MORPHEUS: And she said?

DESTRUCTION: I told you. She said everyone knows everything. We just pretend to ourselves we don’t. I never knew what to make of that.


“The limits of knowledge and the license of limits” was the title of my master’s thesis. To sum it up: the things we think we know, even the things we know we know, offer us a limited amount of knowledge. The things we don’t know–especially the things we know we don’t know–are, knowledge-wise, richer fields.

Ever had a time in your life where every time the phone rings, it depresses you, because every time it rings you know who it’s going to be? Or you open your email and as you’re waiting for it to load you think to yourself, “What do I care? Who am I expecting to hear from, anyway?” It’s enervating when life seems to have run out of surprises.
Facebook has turned into this for me. Because of the wonderful (and fairly new to me) feature that lets you block people’s posts from your feed, narrowcasting occurs: narrowcasting was the term applied to the reaction of TV viewers to the increase in channels offered as cable expanded: despite the # of choices going from 4 channels to 20 to hundreds and hundreds, the response of many viewers is to ignore the efflorescence of options and narrow their P.O.V. to a handful of stations. When one’s vantage suddenly widens, the mind and the eye reflexively restrict the field of vision to prevent the newfound scope from overwhelming. On Facebook, this takes the form of a feedback loop: I cut people I’m not interested in hearing from, so invariably the people left can’t help but become redundant, because they’re the only ones I allow to get through the filter. Consequently, when I post anything, I usually get comments from the same 4-5 people all the time.
And they’re lovely people, the lot of them.
But still…

I joined Facebook in January of 2009 after years of holding out. I had a lung infection that had me as sick as I’ve ever been for about 6 weeks. I lost 30 pounds, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t go up a flight of stairs without being so winded I needed to sit for 15 minutes afterward. It sucked. I couldn’t talk for more than a few seconds without coughing up gallons of phlegm. So I joined FB because I was lonely, and a bit scared, and I wanted socialization, in whatever form it took. Now, years later, because of how I’ve used it, instead of Facebook serving to increase my social interaction, it feels like it’s narrowing it.

This weary awareness happens with people, too. You get to know someone, learn the terrain of their personality, which then gives way to recognition, then familiarity, then they start to seem smaller because there aren’t any more surprises, then that smallness starts to suffocate you. The danger in getting to know someone is losing sight of all that you don’t know about them. You trade away mystery for access; you sacrifice fantasy on the altar of experiencing them. Best-case scenario, what you gain in content more than makes up for what you lose in form. Worst-case scenario, you have the same arguments and miscommunications over and over again, because neither one of you can accept that everything you’ve learned about each other measures up to less than the horizon-length hopes you held in the beginning. They’re not any smaller than when you met them. Your vision is.

Yet no matter how many times this happens with people I meet, I can’t help wanting to meet more people. There’s something vampirically thrilling about digging in to the next new boldface name in your life. How is it that never gets old?

To make it all bearable?

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