He Who Knows One Knows None

Welcome to The D Smitty Blog! I’m glad you have found your way to the blog and truly hope that what you find here will be worth the effort it took to find. From time to time I have ‘aha moments,’ where, in my mind, the dots connect and I gain a new insight into or a new perspective of the world around me. For me, D Smitty, the purpose of this blog is to more fully capture and build upon those insights and perspectives by putting them into words. And I thought that if I were to write them down, I might as well share them with others. Hopefully, these insights will be beneficial for you the reader.

In this first post of The D Smitty Blog, I want to talk about two concepts which will help lay the foundation for the ensuing content of this blog: perspective and paradigms. Neither of those words is inherently exciting, but both have strong influence over how we view and interact with the world around us. Also, I have found that most of my insights come from a fresh perspective or a paradigm through which I had not previously approached a subject or problem. For that reason, I consider these two concepts to be a solid starting point for the blog.

Our perspective is the angle from which we view everything else. In this case that angle is metaphorical, representing – generally speaking – the light in which see things (good or bad), the feelings we have about those things (positive or negative), and the perceived importance of those things. Perspective is shaped by life experiences. These include impactful personal experiences, upbringing, small day-to-day experiences, and even our current mood. Because of this, perspectives can often be specific and unique to individuals (such as having a strong distaste for K-Pop because your ex was obsessed it), though certain perspectives can often be generalized towards groups of people (such as Arizona State Sun Devils hating Arizona Wildcats). The way we view our surrounds, our perspective, greatly influences our decisions and our direction in life.

While perspective can be included in the definition of a paradigm, more broadly paradigms are defined as common patterns for approaching or viewing an aspect of life. An example would be the traditional paradigm for retirement in the United States, where most people work up to the age of 65, at which point they retire and live off of social security and their life savings. Paradigms are useful in that they help us to both make sense of the chaotic world around us and provide a proven / accepted way for us to interact with that world. Generally, paradigms are shared by groups of people but certainly can be unique to an individual.

Paradigms and personal perspectives can be extremely helpful. They rely on our past experience and that of others to help us make decisions and handle situations quickly and successfully. Talk to an evolutionary psychologist about our ability to build personal perspectives and develop paradigms based on experience and he will tell you that they played a key role in the survival of our ancestors by allowing them to make decisions which favored survival while requiring less brain power – meaning we had brain power to spare for activities such as developing the wheel and other nifty innovations.

However, in the twenty first century our goal as humans is not simply to survive, but rather to thrive. Those tools which helped humans survive back in the day will, in our day, curb creativity and inhibit innovation if we let them limit our lives.

To further explain this, I am going to quote a dude named Max Mueller, an academic from the nineteenth century. He said: “He who knows one knows none.” The context for this quote is that he was talking about religions, suggesting that a person cannot fully understand a given religion without having made an effort to understand another religion – if you only know one religion, you really understand no religion. I love this quote, because it suggests that we cannot fully understand our own beliefs, paradigms, and perspectives (be they relating to religion, food, politics, music, etc.) without first having made attempts to understand the beliefs, paradigms, and perspectives of others – especially if they are different or  contrary to our own.

Now, you may be thinking, “D Smitty, we are seven hundred words into this blog post, what’s your point?”

My main point is that, rather than thriving in life, I fear that we instead survive through life by relying on decisions that are obvious and/or expected based on the perspectives and paradigms we have developed. For the cases where we haven’t considered alternative perspectives and paradigms, we may not even fully understand why we are choosing to make the decision we are making.

In other words, I am advocating for us to look at our lives (any and all aspects of it: work, relationships, happiness, frustrations, etc.) through new perspectives and to shift the paradigms we use to approach them. By doing this: we will potentially make new and better decisions we couldn’t see before; we will gain more confidence in the direction our personal perspectives and paradigms do take us; we will build creativity, and we will become more well-rounded, interesting people. I believe that many people are afraid of living mediocre lives; I strongly feel that failing to look outside our own perspectives and paradigms is one of the easiest ways to live a mediocre life.

The engineers developing solutions to the problems facing society brainstorm dozens of possible solutions for those problems by approaching them from various perspectives and paradigms – the solution they ultimately end up choosing is rarely their first. This is a useful model to follow when we are ‘designing’ important aspects of our own lives. Frequently, the best option is not the first one we think of.

And that, I believe, will be the essence of this blog. My expectation is that I will write about insights, concepts, and ideas which provide my readers with novel lenses for viewing common aspects of life. Without a doubt some of what I write will be old news to you. Regardless, my hope is that my writing will help you to view parts of your life with fresh perspectives and shifted paradigms – always remembering that he who knows one knows none.

Post Script:

In this article I mention the importance of getting outside of our personal perspectives and paradigms and trying to understand those of others. This is recommended because it can help us more fully understand our own world view while providing us with options, insights, and opportunities we otherwise would not have noticed. However, I am not advocating that we completely disregard our own believes and life views in favor of those or others. Rather I am suggesting we should try to understand the views of others. If during that process we realize our perspectives are flawed and / or that others’ perspectives are good then we should be willing to fix those flaws and adopt that good.

How can we get outside of our own perspectives and paradigms? One great option is to read books. Every author brings a unique perspective and paradigm to what they write. By reading their words we can take a look at the world through their eyes and thoughts. Another way is to have meaningful conversations with people. Rather than sharing memes, ask people thought provoking questions and listen for the perspective they answer from. Two finals options I will suggest are meditation and writing. I know we often associate meditation with monks sitting cross legged in the mountains, but I assure you that taking quiet time to mull over our thoughts and problems can lead to fresh perspectives for any of us. I am a runner, and for me a run is a great time for me to be alone with my thoughts and to form them in new ways. As far as writing goes, I have found that writing down my thoughts on a certain topic deepens my train of thought and can allow me to connect ideas and concepts in ways I hadn’t before. These are just a few ideas, no doubt a quick Google search of understanding perspectives, creative thinking, thinking outside the box, and similar phrases will bring plenty more.

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