We cannot know who first discovered water – but we can know that it wasn’t a fish. A fish cannot gain an objective hold upon the conditions of its life; it cannot gain an external vantage point and reflect upon its own context. Many people in this world are hopelessly fishy.
The problem is a lack of critical reflection, but more than that an inability even to see that one’s own value system warrants being an object of reflection at all. Our confirmation bias weeds out those pesky details which challenge our sacred cows, and we fall into that trap of simply ever fortifying that position we have always known to be true. As we start building our framework of thought, be it political, philosophical or religious, we weigh ideas upon their merit - some are hung upon our framework quite nicely, whilst others are barely given a second look, for they are so at odds with what we ‘know’.
I hope the problem with this way of doing things is quite self-evident: as time goes on one becomes increasingly blind to ideas that lie outside of one’s conceptual framework. One’s horizons draw in, until all you can see you know, but all you know is so small. ‘The mind will never apprehend the truth of paradox. Only the heart can do that.’ – To live life then, freely and fully, is to accept the necessity of contradiction. This is where true growth is found, not along an ever unfolding continuum, but in the opposites, in the paradoxes, in the discordant currents that pull us this way and that.
Alas, we cannot be neutral arbitrators of ideas, but we can mitigate against our own biases by holding ideas gently – always being ready to lay them aside for a time – to fully inhabit an idea one day, and another the next. Ah, to be misunderstood.