Philosophy 103 — “Limited Knowledge”

Everybody sees the world from their own limited perspective.  In Hinduism they talk a lot about “limited knowledge” or “partial knowledge”  (as opposed to “Absolute Knowledge”  — whatever the heck that is).

And they describe “limited knowledge” with the story about the blind men groping at an elephant, trying to figure out what it is.  One guy is groping at the trunk and he says:  “It’s obviously a long, tube-like thing.”  Another guy is groping at the belly and says:  “No, it’s this large, mass-like thing.”  And the other guy is groping at the asshole and he says: “Life fucking stinks.”  They’re all looking at the thing from their limited perspective.  But then they put their three pointy li’l heads together and realize: “Hey, its an elephant!”  And live happily ever after.

Its one reason I (generally but not always, heh heh) enjoy getting on internet Message Boards or on my Facebook page, and discussing the issues of the day with other people.  I enjoy hearing all the different perspectives on any given issue.

But one thing quickly becomes clear.  There are a lot of people out there who make no distinction between their “opinions”  and Actual Reality.  They are firmly convinced that how they see things is The Way Things Actually Are.  And, apparently, their mental state is so tenuous that they feel deeply threatened by any dissenting viewpoint and immediately go on the attack.  Its like the old joke:  “Want to know how to get into an argument on Facebook?  Express an opinion.  Then wait a minute.”

This one former Facebook friend of mine had a typical opening gambit whenever I dared to express a political opinion that he disagreed with:  “Ace, you stupid fucking idiot.. . .”  And then the discussion would progress from there.  (Which reminds me of my standard thumbnail definition regarding the difference between a “discussion” and a “debate.”   Discussion:  “an exchange of ideas.”  Debate:  “I am smart you are stupid.”)

Now I’m not all that into politics.  Its just one of many subjects that I take an interest in.  But invariably, whenever I would weigh in with one of my weighty opinions regarding  the issue of the day, this one Facebook friend of mine would chime in with a dissenting opinion.  It was always variations of:  “No, you are a wrong.  Now let me correct the errors in your thinking and your logic.”  Not a particularly winning gambit.  And even worse, everything he said, on every issue, was just the basic Liberal/Progressive party line.  Finally I said to him, more out of boredom than exasperation:

“Listen.  Dude.  I’VE BEEN LIVING IN BERKELEY FOR THE LAST 35 YEARS!!  I’ve been listening to the standard Liberal/Progressive line every day of my life for the last 35 years.  I know it backwards and forewards.  If this was just a debating class, I could make your arguments on every issue more powerfully and persuasively than you could.  And in a hell of a lot less words!”

Naturally, he found my position to be highly offensive.  But on the bright side, I no longer have to listen to him regurgitating the standard Liberal/Progressive line for my alleged benefit.  So it worked out well for both of us in the long run.

I’ll give you another example of how “limited knowledge” works.  There’s a store in Berkeley that buys and sells used toys and collectables (plus a bitchin’ selection of pornography hidden in the back of the store!).  Anways, one fine and limited day my friend, the Hate Man, happened to find, in the course of his scrounging and ground-scoring, a very nice toy doll.  Apparently the doll was a character from a TV show called South Park.   Which neither Hate Man or I had ever seen.   So Hate Man took the doll to the collectables store in the hopes of making some dough.  Fortunately, the clerk was interested, and paid 5 bucks for the doll.  But after making the transaction, the clerk said to Hate Man, with a malicious leer on his face:  “I can’t wait to stomp on and mutilate and kill this doll!!!”

“I’ve always had an attitude about that guy ever since,” Hate Man told me.  “For years, every time I saw that clerk I would remember what a creep he was.  I mean, what kind of pervert would take glee out of destroying a little children’s doll?”

Being a perceptive student of human nature, I agreed the man was scum.  Until somebody else chimed in:  “No, you idiots.  The clerk was just joking.  That’s a standard schtick on the South Park show where the Kenny character gets killed over and over and the catch phrase is: “Oh my God, Kenny got killed again.'”

So, from our limited knowledge, Hate Man and I had ever reason to feel justified in our reality (so-called).  But (thanks to the joy that is expanded knowledge) we were later able to experience reality from a deeper and fuller perspective.

It’s a concept that the Hindus refer to as:  “The world is as you see it.”  In other words, its sort of like one of those Rorschach Ink Blot tests.  Where our minds project the patterns onto the inkblot.  What we think of as The World Out There, is largely just an exact reflection of our own minds.  Which reminds me of one of my other favorite phrases, re limited knowledge:  “When the pickpocket sees the sage, all he notices are the pockets.”  In other words:  our minds tend to be very selective regarding what aspects of reality we happen to notice, or block out.

I’ll give another example.  One of the annoying bi-products of being homeless is that you’re literally “living in public.”  You have very little privacy.  Every time I scratched my ass I’d look up and notice somebody was gawking at me.  It could really get on your nerves after awhile.  So anyways, one afternoon I was feeling particularly shattered.  So I went into a sports bar to get a little shelter from the storm.  It was early in the day and the bar was thankfully almost completely empty.  But there was this one guy at a nearby table, and the dude kept staring at me.  After awhile it really started to drive me nuts.  Every time I looked up, this fucking asshole kept staring right at me!!  I tried everything to get him to stop.  I started glaring back at him.  I started muttering vague curses in his general direction.  Nothing worked!!    Finally I got up and was all set to go over there and really give this guy a good piece of my mind.  When I realized, on the wall, right above my head, was one of those silent radios.  Ya know?  One of those things where the headlines of the day are in electric lights and go running across the screen.  And that is what he had been looking at.


Limited knowledge.

Course I still think that guy is a fucking asshole.  The only other possible conclusion is that I might have been . . . wrong.  Heaven forbid.


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One thought on “Philosophy 103 — “Limited Knowledge”

  1. I just discovered your blog, and absolutely love it! I was wondering, with Albert Hofmann and Terence McKenna gone, and Shulgin so close to being so, sadly, who is picking up the mantle in this century? Who should a lifetime hallucinatrix such as I be watching? I feel like my heroes are all gone sometimes.
    Thank you, Ms. Thraam

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