Flying into the glass wall

7 05 2008

By Karuna D’Souza

The idea that you are never aware of the fact that your culture can be knowledge till you hit a boundary, was something of a revelation for me, something like the fly which flew into a glass wall. When you meet a foreigner, suddenly the things that you thought were completely normal become knowledge for them, problematising again what one thought ‘knowledge’ was in the first place. Maybe all knowledge is the difference between ‘knowing’ and ‘not knowing’. Thus, you suddenly realise you ‘know’, like the fly which comes to ‘know’ the glass wall, in spite of its invisibility.

The five questions about knowledge that this kind of thinking brought me to are: What? Who? When? Why? And How? What is knowledge really? Who decides what knowledge is? What is the historicity of this knowledge, that is, when did it become knowledge? Why is this knowledge created? And how has it been created? Each of these questions can be a thesis in itself. And, if, in a research paper, one can answer each of the questions above, it ought to be a comprehensive one.

Another point that interested me was the distrust of the idea of an absolute truth, which I think we really grapple with as students. There is a constant pressure to articulate in the most eloquent language, know everything there is to know (again, this can be problematic), and write an absolute masterpiece. Reality does bite and confidence levels just plummet when you do not live up to that, which is almost always. There is no absolute truth and the sooner we surrender to the present and the uncertainty of the future – instead of fighting it – there would be a change in the way research is conventionally approached.

This brings me back to the whole discussion about ‘knowledge’ and its creation. Only in the surrendering of the idea of absolutes is there an awareness. Perhaps then one can be ‘knowledgeable’. One doesn’t have to see everything, one cannot see everything in order to be knowledgeable. And that, for me, is a wonderful concept.

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