On the illusion of being well-informed

Once again, I find myself indebted to the mainstream system of education for presenting me with the opportunity, and to some extent the content, of yet another post. Instead, it is better said that the academic ordeal of which I speak wasn’t a direct contributor to this occurrence, but merely the dreaded path through which it was achieved.

Earlier this week, I was faced with the horrendous task known as “journal writing”. The task, which is a regular atrocity, entails copying content from one piece of paper mindlessly onto the other, for what I assume is the sadistic amusement of the examination board. It is, in my opinion, the most dreadful of all assignments conferred upon the students by the Indian education system, and I feel confident in stating that the Indian student body would unanimously benefit from its exclusion.

However, the extent of my displeasure with this particular catastrophe isn’t the subject of this post. No, today I wish to talk about how painstakingly putting myself through that displeasure led me to a profound realisation, albeit one which the world has made many times over already.

In a wildly desperate, yet wildly successful attempt to bring an end to the monotony of mindless copying, I put on some music from my playlist, which, by common consent, is quite distasteful. It was when one particular song was playing that my epiphany made itself apparent, and thus gave rise to this post.

The song of which I speak has now come to be one of my favourites, yet there was a time when I would very contemptuously skip that song whenever it had the audacity to play. When I’d first heard that song, and indeed for a few times after, I’d convinced myself that the lyrics of the song were not possible to be deciphered, on account of the singer’s poor enunciation. Recently, frustrated by my inability to make sense of what is an insanely popular song, and crippled by my all consuming obsession with song lyrics, I gave in and “Googled” the words.

As though a dense fog had been lifted off my mind the moment I read the words upon the screen. What’s more, whenever I had heard the song hence, including on the fateful evening of which I speak, I found myself clearly understanding the lyrics which had so far been nothing but elusive. And so while I was mechanically scribbling away into my notebook and this song played, I found myself humming along with it, whispering the words into the air, completely unaware that I now knew the lyrics well enough to sing along.

It was then that I had to pause the gruelling task which was engaging me, and think back upon the days when I had thought the song incomprehensible. The epiphany ran thus: our knowledge, all our knowledge, is an illusion, brought about by incidences of learning which we do not give due credit to. To make this rather cryptic statement clearer, I’ll take the example of what I have been talking about thus far. It is now impossible for me to think of a time when I did not know the lyrics of this particular song, because they seem so obvious in the light of the new knowledge I have acquired.

How is it possible that something which is so thoroughly apparent to me now, was so utterly elusive then? How has the simple acquisition of knowledge made me forget the sensation of being ignorant? And so I extrapolated this particular theory, if you will, onto other aspects of life and existence. I came to the rather startling realisation that a lot of the information we take for granted is actually a compilation of things we never knew, and things which we thought we never would be able to understand, until such time as we found them out.

The favourite colour of your best friend, perhaps, may serve as an example. Your favourite dish, another. A third could be the knowledge of the grammar of your first language. There is so much knowledge within us which we assume is a given, or which we take for granted, not realising that we are born with nothing in our heads, and that even things which seem like they’ve always been there, haven’t.

Of course, shortly after realising this, I saw the bulk of content before me still waiting to be written, and I left the realisation of this epiphany for another day. At this point, I’d like to end this very vague post with one question: does it count as an epiphany if it’s merely reflection upon something you’ve always known?

Food for thought, I guess, or something to distract yourself with this Valentine’s Day. Happy Loving, everyone.


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