When Lost in Ignorance

I have heard the quote: “When lost in ignorance, man makes himself the measure of all things” attributed to Da Vinci, and perhaps it is his. I cannot pretend to understand what he, or whoever else may have said it, meant by that observation because it is true, and I am ignorant of what went on in that wondering and wonderful mind. It seems almost redundant to say that of course I can only understand you, or the forest when gleaming in a spectacular array of the greens of spring or flaming itself into autumn’s final days within the framework of my own cognitive constructs. How else could I understand anything?

That doesn’t mean we cannot, from that sometimes formidable distance, have what used to be called, “a meeting of the minds”. But just as you and I do not merge upon encountering each other, our minds do not merge in understanding, and despite the relief from loneliness that falling in love provides, neither do our hearts and souls. We are alone. Our puzzling about our place in this universe, our particular haphazard origin and cloudy destination is our own. The question then becomes, how do we learn to use our loneliness to deepen and broaden our understanding of this existential reality so that we are prepared to convert the necessity of collaboration into the opportunity for a productive community. We must learn to do this without the comforting but deluding fantasy that in order to work together, we need to be “really” understood. The essence of collaboration is to relinquish my less than perfect understanding of what needs to be done, to the equally less than perfect decision of the group. And to be willing to engage in the process of dialogue with those whose understanding seems so very different from my own.  I am not always confident that we are up to the task.

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