The Power of Not KnowingBook - 2015
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Not knowing doesn’t leave us without a compass, in some relativist nether land. Owning our uncertainty makes us kinder, more creative, and more alive.
Both empathy and creativity spring from the same source: diversity. Empathy, after all, is a fundamentally creative act by which we connect previously unimagined lives to our own. The path to embracing other cultures has to traverse the imagination. That’s why studies have shown that a high need for closure hurts creativity. And it’s why reading fiction—which puts us in other people’s shoes—can both lower our need for closure and make us more empathetic. Spending time among diverse social groups has the same effect.
Having an open mind doesn’t imply having no opinion. It often implies having both opinions. It means not denying the supposed contradiction that victims can be victimizers and vice versa, a simple truth that dogmatists refuse to accept. Such contradictions fuel . . . art. The open-minded person, likewise, cultivates those tensions.
The roots of prejudice can be traced to a general cognitive outlook characterized by the hunger for certainty.
Lasting knowledge earns its keep by allowing itself to be persistently questioned. In any field, we gain true confidence when we allow our ideas and successes to be continuously challenged.
Ambivalence is a more natural state of mind than we ordinarily assume. Wanting and not wanting the same thing at the same time is so common that we might even consider it a baseline condition of human consciousness.
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