Widen Your Aperture!
There are times you know that you know and know there are things you know you do not know, yet you do not know what you do not know. And if you believe the Socratic Paradox that comes from Plato describing the theory of Socrates, and was never recorded as an original saying from Socrates, then you may sum up the knowledge of Socrates as:
“I know that I know nothing” or
“I know one thing; that I know nothing”
And no amount of explanation of the complexity of this thought will simplify it enough any easier than that first phrase: I know that I know nothing.
I was listening to an interview between William Shatner (actor) and Michio Kaku, a Theoretical Physicist and Futurist. Shatner speaks from his art perspective, and he has had a long acting career that goes back to the B&W days. Kaku speaks from a much different level of knowledge and interest of physics.
It’s interesting to listen to art and science attempt to reach common ground.
As Kaku speaks of his theory, Shatner says, “I understand the English” but not the sense of it. In other words, I understand the words, but not your speech. Kaku keeps trying to break down his view of String Theory into words and thought that can enlighten Shatner. Eventually, from the analogy of explaining Cosmic Music, Shatner says, “I got it! I got it!”.
The aperture combining words and simplified explanation of a complex subject opened his understanding. Now, wait a few minutes and see if Shatner truly understands, or did the Aperture of his Enlightenment snap wide for a brief moment of understanding, and poof it’s gone several sentences later.
That’s more common than you might imagine!
The other day something clicked in my mind. We all need to shed more light on some subjects so that we can grasp a broader understanding of discussion points. So that we can have more meaningful conversation. Too much light on a discussion with an audience that has no ability to accept a broader discourse will only confuse the entire dialogue. Everything will be cloudy. No common ground will be found between how much light is being shared, and the base of knowledge that defines the hearer.
There must be common ground for any wider viewpoint to be grasped.
Thus we have an education. It brings students along a pathway of learning and comprehension of salient facts and takes them to a certain future point of common knowledge. But then, students take diverse directions in life and that’s where failure happens. We are operating on different planes of understanding, knowledge, and interest. Those operating “higher”, or different, planes must find ways to step down the aperture so those without a broader knowledge can understand, just as those with “lower”, or different, planes must learn how to step up their knowledge in order to enter the conversation in an intelligent fashion.
My first 35mm camera in high school was a Yashica…I still own it. Something happened to a light sensor and it would no longer operate properly. So, I learned how to control the amount of light by learning how much light was necessary to expose the film so the ending picture will be meaningful. I did this manually by controlling the aperture. Based upon experiments, I learned how much light I would need for the purpose of the shot I was taking. Low light and motion of a football field would require a different setting than an outdoor daytime shot of student activity.
I would manually control the amount of light by adjusting the aperture of the lens.
I think I could still make that old camera work today, just the same way. It’s like the knowledge is grounded in my psyche! It’s my framework of knowledge that gives me a handle on how to work the system.
But there are things I do not know and I know I do not know, and that lack makes it difficult to enter certain conversations. On the other hand, sometimes I speak from a different place and I know there are others who have no clue what I’m saying, nor how I got to my point.
It’s that middle ground between knowing and not knowing that is vast.
Here’s my thought. When we are ignorant of certain facts or knowledge, it is okay to choose to stay in the dark. When we open up to a new subject, then we should make every effort to widen our aperture of knowledge so that the conversation will mean something to all parties.
Jesus knew he had spoken everything that his disciples needed to know, and yet, after his resurrection, he was in a position of broadening their understanding even more. Widening their aperture so they could have more light on the subject.
Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. (Luke 24:44-45 NKJV)
There are times we are not kind enough to take the hearers to some lowest point of common denominator where all know the same amount of knowledge. And there are times as learners we are not patient enough to go back so that we can learn forward. But for conversations and learning to work properly, it is wise that teacher and student both begin at a common point and work forward.
As we move through life, in any subject, we must not forget that not everyone is operating on the same playing field. It does little good to shed light on a subject with someone who has not even grasped they know nothing of the subject, nor it’s applicability.
The Apostle Paul describes the “understanding” as the difference between children and adults (1 Corinthians 14:20) and to the church of Ephesus he warns them to have their understanding connected to what the Will of God is for them. (Ephesians 5:17) Some understanding comes supernaturally (1 John 5:20), and others come from hard, patient work on the part of student and teacher to get to the same place of knowledge (2 Timothy 2:24).
This brings me to a couple of questions to ask, and to answer.
- Where do you stand with your aperture opening today? Do you need some enlightenment? What are you doing to arrive at that next point of knowledge upward?
- If you have great knowledge, what are you doing to step down your explanations to narrow the conversation to the audience before you?
- We have all been places where the conversation was over our heads. Did you go back to a place of learning to gain more intel on the subject so that you would comprehend more? The next time?
If we were ever to get everyone to the same page of knowledge, then we would still need to work on our understanding. This is a subject for a different day!