Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Fine Art of Discrimination

What do you see?

In order to make sense of the vast flow of information in which we bathe daily, we need to acquire the ability to discriminate -- to become discriminating, to be able to distinguish between the objective and the subjective, to discern the difference between an original and a copy for example. This skill is not routinely taught in even our best schools, although a broad education lays the foundation for acquiring it.

What we can see or know or understand (S-K-U) is a function of what we allow ourselves to S-K-U. We must draw upon the times we have stretched our minds to encompass all that we might S-K-U had we taken the time and spent the energy to really think about the subject.

I was struck by a phrase used by a poster on a blog that I frequent:
I truly believe [...]. I have never questioned it.
If we never question, are we not then willing dupes?  Think back to January, 2003.  We were told Saddam's Iraq posed a grave, looming threat.  We were told about massive stockpiles of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Saddam's desire to unleash them on us.  Some of us never questioned it, but the information was untrue and acting on that belief, we ended up losing and wasting many precious things.

Believing without sincere, in-depth questioning is always dangerous.  Has not belief in one or another radical religious tenet or political principle caused untold death, destruction, torture and suffering throughout human history?

The first step to S-K-U what is right or true is to question.  Here is a simple practice that can be done anywhere.  Select an event or object from daily life and ask oneself questions about it such as: what are its origins? how did it occur? what is it made of? what will happen to it over time? who has been involved in it?  Attempt to explore the event or object in as many different ways as possible.

Unless we acquire and practice the ability to be discriminating, we will surely fail to achieve our potential as individuals and as a society.  And in that case, we become nothing more than cogs in someone else's machine -- used and eventually discarded when we wear out.