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February 15th, 2021
It’s always a bit of a knock to realize you’re wrong about something. Some people even take it personally. In fact, some people are so tied to these things that delusion and denial arise to fend off the notion of the world somehow being different than previously thought.
Identity is, in the face of a mysterious world, a rather fragile thing. While knowledge and identity may not at first like the most correlated topics, the connection brightens when it’s pointed out that most identity is a function of how we categorize the world, and we do so in order to try and make sense of the way it works. What better definition is knowledge than an understanding of the way things work? The two major group identities of conservative and liberal are both perspectives about how we should run our big group experiment. But both of these identities and their perspectives about how things should work, has embedded within it a presupposition about how the world currently does work on a subtler plane, one that the proposed way of doing things would be more inline with.
When reality sends a shock up through either of these identities, it is because our categories fail to describe the world accurately. And we take it personally, because, well, that’s what an identity does.
Strangely, education, or rather raw learning, is a function of discovering weaknesses in our understanding. Learning is literally figuring out exactly how you are wrong, and often it’s a surprise just how wrong we are. In this sense knowledge is the inverse of identity. The more tightly we hold on to a particular identity, the weaker our ability is to learn.
Perhaps this what we seem to be talking about when we say someone approaches things with a childlike spirit: such a person is open to something new because, like a child, identity isn’t much of an issue.