What do you know for certain? What do you remember? What occurs to your memory as you think or utter a proposition? How cognitively assured are you of your present perceptions? What is actually happening in the world around us, near us, far from us, on the other side of the globe? Which of these things is most pressing, most certain, most surely to be of significance to ourselves, to each other, and to the survival of human kind? How much do you follow social bias when deciding which side of an argument you are on? What is true in your everyday life, that humdrum daily ritual of know tasks that guide us to the weekend? How willing are you to dig back into your cognitive load to understand the situation within which you currently find yourself? Even as I write I am aware that these thoughts are shaped by recent lectures and conversations I have listened to and know that there are things deeper in my past which I should attend to to make better sense of this new knowledge. But how much work I am prepared to do, or not do, is a sign of my human preference for least resistance as I wander today’s path. I think of past conversations, the multitude, that I have had in which I was so very pleased with my newly acquired information, eager to present these facts and display my intellectual capacity. But this capacity is often only cream floating on the surface of the milk jug; rarely are we able to dip our spoons deep enough to dredge up long forgotten experiences or beliefs, or even to find the ability to stir the spoon thus co-mingling our current with our past into a whole new concoction of cognizance.
That which is most easily retrievable from consciousness is that of which we deem ourselves to be most certain. It’s not particularly a gaping fault of humanity. Think of the hot stove; if you burned yourself recently, or indeed at any time in your past, the pain is easily remembered, and rightly so because we do not want to make that same mistake twice. Dangerous things do well to remain localized within our knowledge base. But our ability to apply longitudinal hindsight becomes faulty when we jump upon the band wagon of current trends in reality. The zeitgeist seems to have narrowed its focus since the term was first coined as the world has become an increasingly smaller place. Moreover, it appears the “times” in which the “spirit” dwells have themselves decreased incrementally as our memories become shorter in proportion to the speed and density with which information bombards us with its arrival. With all these truths, lies, and half-truths that spew themselves at us with lightning speed, we would do well to modify our assurances; become more uncertain of our concept of what is presently true and open ourselves up to the possibility that we may just be misguided by popular culture. If we were supposed to have all the answers, and only to hold to temporal truths, wouldn’t we have been born knowing, would be requisitely equipped with all there is, was, and will be? But sadly, we were not, and so shouldn’t we strive to integrate the new with the old, incrementally expanding our horizons? Surely, we cannot simply hold to the pleasure of our current veracities?
He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy;
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in Eternity’s sunrise. (Eternity, William Blake)
Was Blake not including all joy here? Doesn’t the righteousness we feel in the presentation of our beliefs bring us such joy, to which we bind ourselves just as we bind ourselves to the current trend in that belief? Will we not become more fortunate to let each veracity fly? Even Dickens in his preface to his novel David Copperfield, a work largely exploring the merit of our remembrances and our cognitive ability to fully understand our belief in them, wrote,
“Yet, I had nothing else to tell; unless, indeed, I were to confess… that no one can ever believe this Narrative in the reading more than I believed it in the writing. So true are these avowals at the present day, that I can now only take the reader into one confidence more. Of all my books, I like this this best. It will be easily believed that I am a fond parent to every child of my fancy.”
So, who are the children or your fancy? What are the narratives that you’ve created, or allowed others to create for you, and how far back are you willing to delve in order that the narrative might hold a less assured truth? Which of your cognitive children do you love the most, and how much do you believe in what you write or say? If you’re like me, like most of us, the current availability of knowledge serves as the most convenient method of deciding what we know (or think we know) to be true. Perhaps it is better, more joyful and right, for our minds to be mailable to the present, just as long as we don’t forget all the truths that brought us to this point in time in the first place.