Thursday, February 28, 2013

Knowledge Vs. Understanding

Knowing does not automatically equate to understanding.

At this day and age, where every type of information is readily available and accessible at the touch of a button, knowledge is literally out there for anyone who is willing to find and read.

Nothing is hardly a secret anymore.
At the rate we are going, "priviledged information" may become a relic or extinct.

However, knowing something does not mean that you understand it - in entirety with its depth, width and breadth. 

Data and information make up knowledge.

To decipher what those information and data means requires understanding.

Understanding comes with experience and insight. These are usually accomplished through lessons one had learnt personally, and when one had undergone a process or journey of experiences.

As they say, smooth seas do not make good sailors. The same could be applied to understanding. Without having gone through difficulties and challenges in life, one would not arrive at a deeper state of understanding - not just about oneself, but also about the people around us and our environment. 

This is also why they say that LIFE IS A JOURNEY because our learning and understanding never ends. They become refined, deepened and widened as we "travel" through the various paths of our lives.

After many experiences, higher levels of understandings arise and that would lead to us cultivating the wisdom in choosing the right course of action for ourselves.

Wisdom is understanding the difference between knowing what to do and how to do it right.

This week was an exposition on understanding for me, as played out by a certain Parent and Teachers Meeting that I had to attend.

While the Teachers are advocating for a "new" method of reporting on the students' performance at school, the parents are expressing how the "new" method of reporting do not give them sufficient information.

The hostile exchanges between parents and teachers are not unusual than any other hostility which we have witnessed many times over in our own every day lives.

As always, the parents spoke from fear that they cannot properly understand if their children are doing well in school because the new method of reporting are not the ones they can relate to. They are from the old school of thought whereby one's performance is measured in "percentages".

Then, there are the teachers who believe that these "percentages" are archaic and do not help the child to learn or grow at his or her own pace. 

Both sides are right in their views. Both views present valuable tools in helping a student learn.

Sitting in the room, it is interesting to hear different parent or teacher speak. Almost without meaning to, one can gain an insight to how each of their childhood was like and how they have been conditioned. At the end of the meeting, it became clear that we are all governed by our own "conditioning of past experiences" and our understanding stems from there. 

This is not to say it is wrong or right. This is to state that we can only see as much as we have learnt. If our past experiences did not include certain challenges in life, we may not know how to relate to those who had. We may not come to understand why they hold different perceptions from us. And there lies the breeding space for disagreements and outright confrontations. 

When we keep insisting that the other person see the way we see and feel the way we feel, we would not arrive at a common ground. We fail to understand that it is simply not possible for every person to accept our views, because not everyone goes through the same processes and "life journeys" as we did in order to arrive at their own conclusions about what is acceptable and not acceptable.

When we choose to remain attached to our own ideas, perceptions and feelings, we allow a greater divide to take place. 

Some parents would not agree with other parents, while finding the teachers most un-accommodating as well. 

One thing is for certain, every parent spoke out of genuine concern for their child. Which parent would want their child to fail? Of course, all parents would like to know that their child is doing well so that their child can progress and be accepted in "good/reputable" schools. 

However, the definition of "doing well" carries different meanings and manners of assessment for the parents and teachers.

And that is where the real problem brews...the lack of understanding in one another's definition. 

Understanding, unfortunately, would also differ from person to person based on their own life experiences and past conditioning. The lenses in our mind are definitely coloured and bias according to how we have lived, have been brought up and etc. Therefore, it does not necessarily mean that something is not true just because we don't understand it or see it.

When one is willing to go outside of one's perspective in order to see where the other person is coming from, then a new level of understanding can be created and achieved. 

Without having a desire or intention to understand more, we are all doomed to live within the confines of our own little corner of the world in our mind and see only what we want to see. Imagine how very narrow our world would be if we did not step outside of our own little boxes.

Once we expand our minds with greater understanding, it cannot shrink into its previous shape or size. That is the beauty of our minds. Once it expands, it stays expanded. Wish we could do that for every other part of our bodies too ;)

As Albert Einstein famously said, "Any fool can know. The point is to understand."

May we all rise to a deeper, higher and richer understanding, always!

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