How do you know that you’re not perfect? How do you know that you’ve made a mistake? How do you know that the person telling you that you’ve made a mistake isn’t making a mistake?
How do you know that you don’t know something?
How do you know that you know something?
How do you know that you’re human?
Okay, I’ll stop asking possibly stupid questions for a moment and focus the spotlight on two interesting blog posts by two interesting bloggers…
How do I know that these two bloggers and their blog posts are interesting? How do you know if you should click on the link and read them if you don’t know whether you too will find them interesting?
This post of mine is inspired by Fandango of This That And The Other: Fandango’s Provocative Question #4
FPQ#4: Is it better to know or is it better to not know?
Fandango’s provocative question is particularly interesting this week because of reasons, therefore I’m going to share his introduction, explaining the inspiration behind his question:
This week’s provocative question came up while I was watching “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” a few weeks ago. Colbert was talking with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and mentioned that in college he was taking a philosophy course and the final exam consisted of just one question:
“Is it better to know or is it better to not know?”
Do you know the reason why this question is particularly interesting? If you don’t know… you’re on the internet, aren’t you, Google knows.
Melanie of Sparks From A Combustible Mind answered Fandango’s question and asked a provocative question in return: Fourth Provocative Question!
Melanie’s SFACMPQ: Should someone tell a wife (or husband, because this cuts both ways) if their spouse or significant other is having an affair?
Do you know what you would do if you knew someone’s spouse or SO was having an affair?
Do you know what you would like for someone else to do if they knew that your spouse or SO was having an affair?
What about… if you were the spouse or SO who was having the affair and someone knew about it and was considering telling your spouse or SO about it – do you know what you would do? Do you know why you cheated on your spouse or SO?
How do we know when someone is cheating on us?
This is where the title of this post comes in. This is also connected to both Fandango’s and Melanie’s posts and questions. There be spoilers ahead, so if you’re planning on watching Season 3 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, don’t read the next bit unless you want to know.
What happens if you’d like to read more of this post (do you know why you want to read more of this post?), but don’t want Episode 1 of Season 3 spoiled for you… how will you know when I’m done spoiling things for you?
Because, as tempting as it is to leave you in a quandary, I’m not a total brat and therefore I’ll put the spoiler in italics:
At the beginning of Season 3’s premiere episode Mrs. Maisel gets an urgent phone call from her father who demands that she leave work and return to the home she shares with her parents immediately – there’s an emergency! She doesn’t know what it is because he won’t tell her, so she rushes back thinking all sorts of anxious thoughts, perhaps something happened to her little children!!!
Once home she finds her kids are fine, but her father isn’t. He’s in a state of panic because he can’t find his wife. Tomorrow they’re supposed to be giving some sort of party and his wife handles that kind of thing. Where is she and why isn’t she here!?!
Mrs. Maisel’s father is a stereotypical absent-minded professor… so it takes a while for MM to get any information from her father about where her mother told him that she was going and when she would be back.
Long story short – MM’s mother decided to leave her husband and go to Paris to find herself and her joie de vivre. She told her husband she was leaving him, but he since he is a master of the art of not listening, he heard nothing other than that she was going out. He thought she’d gone shopping. That’s what he knew.
Their housekeeper knew more, including the address where MM’s mother was now living and had been for a couple of weeks. To add salt to the unknowing wound, the address had been pinned to a noticeboard in the kitchen in LARGE LETTERS.
MM and her father fly from New York to Paris in about five seconds and confront MM’s mother about her sudden decision to abandon her family. They keep asking her why and she keeps telling them why… but no one seems to want to know her reasons, they just want her to know their reasons why she should come back home immediately, and so they block out what they don’t want to know.
MM’s father is so adamant about not knowing why his wife left him, that he storms out… leaving mother and daughter to talk. MM lectures her mother on how irresponsible she is being, and her mother points out that MM also walked out on her husband to seize a new life for herself.
MM’s husband had an affair with his secretary… so there is that. MM and her husband almost worked things out and got back together, but then he discovered that MM was pursuing a new career as a stand-up comedian which is what her husband wanted to be…
…so he broke it off because he couldn’t live with knowing that she was funnier than he was, that part of her act was making him a laughing stock for cheating on her, and…
…when she offers to give it all up for him, for them, he tells her that he doesn’t want to live with knowing that she’d given up something she loved and was very good at to stay with him. He didn’t think she could live with knowing that either, and with not knowing how great she could become if she pursued her dreams.
There’s this wonderful scene, shortly after her conversation with her mother, MM goes wandering around Paris and ends up in a cabaret bar. She finds herself on stage giving one of her impromptu stand-up routines. Since everyone is French and she’s talking in English, no one knows what she’s saying… until a member of the audience translates her words.
When she starts talking about her husband cheating on her… her funny story falls flat, because she’s no longer in America, she’s in France where affairs are viewed differently and everyone cheats… un petit peu, parce que c’est la vie!
If you’ve never watched The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel… it’s set in the 1950’s, and yet many of the issues which she has to deal with as woman in those times are also very relevant in the now.
There’s another storyline in that episode which also deals with knowing and not knowing. A friend of MM’s gets picked up by some goons who’ve been hired to beat her up… on the way to the place where they’re going to beat her up, they get to know her and this leads to her spending time getting to know them… and then the goons decide not to beat her up because they got to know her.
So… Is it better to know or is it better to not know?
One of the things I love about life is the way things come together when your attention is drawn to something.
For instance in the interview which [you can watch HERE] inspired Fandango’s provocative question, Stephen Colbert mentions that his father used to enjoy reading French philosophers, like Jacques Maritain…
It is not possible to escape from the results of the irruption of faith into the structures of our knowledge.– Jacques Maritain, Science and Wisdom (1954)
I think he may have mentioned another name, but I don’t know for sure because his words in French were a bit quickly garbled out.
My French teacher used to tell us foreigners who were attempting to speak in French that to be understood – Il faut articuler – and when she said it she would open her mouth wide and carefully articulate each syllable to make the sound come out clearly and be understood.
I still speak in French in a garbled manner like Stephen Colbert did… so some lessons no matter how good they are, how right we know they are, while they may sink in and stay with us, and we know them, aren’t ones we necessarily learn.
There’s another quote by Richard Feynman which I love:
I believe that a scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy — and when he talks about a nonscientific matter, he will sound as naive as anyone untrained in the matter.– Richard Feynman, The Value of Science (1955)
We sometimes place certain people on pedestals. Sometimes they become bastions [an institution, place, or person strongly maintaining particular principles, attitudes, or activities] of knowledge, of knowing what is right and what is wrong, of teaching, for us.
Sometimes those bastions [a projecting part of a fortification built at an angle to the line of a wall, so as to allow defensive fire in several directions] come tumbling down, fall off those pedestals, like Humpty Dumpty from the wall.
Do we learn more from them when they’re on the pedestal maintaining a precarious balance as our chosen perfect people who must never make mistakes…
Or do we learn more from them when they fall off the pedestal and go splat?
A great philosopher in the wrong is like a beacon on the reefs which says to seamen: steer clear of me.– Jacques Maritain, On The Use of Philosophy (1966)
I think we learn from them either way, but when they fall… we learn a lot about ourselves, especially who we are when others fall, particularly when they are our heroes, people whom we know are paragons of one thing and we expect them to be paragons in everything, which may challenge what we know about ourselves.
When the shit hits the fan… we show the true colour of our personal umbrella. Do you know what colour your personal umbrella really is?
As for the recent revelations in the news about Neil deGrasse Tyson, which made the headlines shortly after the interview he did with Stephen Colbert… it’s made that interview, and how it was conducted with roles reversed, even more interesting, as at least one of them if not both of them knew things were about to hit.
Does the news change what we know?
Does the news and what we now know thanks to the news change how you read the quote below?
Would it be better if we didn’t know?
What do we really know?
What do the people involved in the news story know?
They all seem to have a different perspective, a different experience and knowing of the past events… which will now be investigated by others in search of knowing.
Do we have the right to know more about the private lives of public figures?
Most people value their privacy, and we really don’t like it when information about us is taken from us, knowingly or unknowingly, and used to compile files on what we do and say online and offline too.
We do not like it when people know things about us which we don’t want them to know about us.
Yet we may want to know about others those very things which others don’t want us to know about them.
It’s all very confusing, complicated and complex…
So, how do we know whether it is better to know or better to not know?
In other words, As within, So without. Or something like that… I really don’t know at this point what I’m talking about in this post, and that’s probably for the best…
That’s it from me… Over to you!
Featured image is The Alchemist’s Laboratory by Hans Vredeman de Vries