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The Things We Know We Can’t Know

There are things we can know: the circumference of a cylinder, for example. Or the number of miles in a kilometer. The capital of Kansas.

Then there are things we can’t know: what happens after we die. If there is a meaning to life, and if so, what it is. If one religion or moral code is inherently superior to another.

There’s nothing wrong with believing in things that we can’t know, so long as we know that they are things we can’t know.

It’s when we’ve decided that we can know the things we can’t know, despite there being no facts, just wants and emotions and faith, that things get tricky. When there are no answers, there’s no way to disprove any answer that’s given.

The meaning of life might be muffins. When we die, maybe we turn into shoes. There’s no way to prove or disprove either of these assertions.

We may someday have the science to understand how the world was created. We may someday have the math to describe what happens after we die.

Until then, just remember the different between the two types of knowledge and be careful about trusting anyone who says they know something they can’t.

Either they’re a revolutionary a huckster trying to sell you something, or a person who’s given up their searching for meaning having decided it’s easier to stop and just say they found it.

Update: February 8, 2017

Perhaps my favorite line of text I wrote but don’t remember writing: “The meaning of life might be muffins. When we die, we may turn into shoes.”

Either one of those sentences would make for a great book title.

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What You Say and How You Say It

When you want to communicate something, the content of what you’re saying is vitally important. If what you’re conveying isn’t realistic, inspiring, appropriate, innovative, or somehow valuable, then there isn’t a lot of incentive for anyone to pay attention.

Perhaps just as important, however, is how you communicate your message.

Even with the greatest idea in the world, maybe you’ve cured every disease and are making the pill you’ve developed available for free, if you present that information in such a way that no one will listen to you, the world is no better off than if you hadn’t developed the cure in the first place.

Keep this in mind, and try to put yourself in the shoes of the person you want to communicate with. What would they need to hear from you to believe your story? To want to listen to you? To understand what you’re telling them?

Act accordingly.

Update: February 8, 2017

The age old medium vs. the message conflict.

Both are worth our attention, though I do see a shocking amount of great writing, reporting, and the like, which is badly packaged and as a result not widely shared.

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On Not Sucking As Much

In almost everything we do, we aim for victories.

Victories keep up motivated and allow us to show off to friends and generally make us feel like the winners we are.

But more often than not we can’t achieve victories in any trackable amount of time.

True victories come after years and years of work and research and training and sweating blood until one day you reach the goal you had originally aimed for. By then, though, the path to victory has become such a normal part of life, it would seem strange to even celebrate. In a lot of cases, the crossing of these finish lines goes completely unnoticed.

And this is great, because it means we are living for the journey, not for the goal, and that means we’re also enjoying life a whole lot more.

But it’s still fun to celebrate, so I’d like to make a modest proposal: let’s celebrate not sucking as much as we did before.

Because when we start completely fresh in a new field of study, we generally suck pretty bad. Any movement closer to mastery is a good excuse for wild hand-waving, raucous dance parties, and assorted cork popping.

Any time you stop and realize that you don’t suck as much at something as you used to, at the very least give yourself a pat on the back and acknowledge that you’re continuing to grow. It’s not a full victory yet, but it’s a mile marker on the way to where you want to be.

Update: February 8, 2017

It’s definitely more about the journey than the destination, as corny as that can sound. Nothing wrong with celebrating little milestones and finding value in the small things.