What, at this moment, are you meant to know?

It actually felt good to just, write, in reference to the previous post. I was worried and had been stress-dreaming — you know those kind of dreams you get when you are stressed, which usually involves sitting for secondary school exams for subjects you no longer had any proficiency of in waking life (Additional Maths! Physics! Chemistry!) — and upon writing them down, the anxiety somehow subsided. I don’t know how to tell you, but writing does work sometimes.

Today in Nick Cave’s The Red Hand Files, among a flurry of questions, he was asked, “Why do you write?”

One of the reasons I write is because it allows me the freedom to move beyond the declared world into the uncanny and unfamiliar world. As a songwriter I have made a commitment to uncertainty and to embrace that which I do not know, because I feel this is where true meaning exists. It allows me to write songs that have within them the spirit of enquiry and reciprocity. It leaves me open to chance, a sense of open-ended potentiality, and fills me with a devotion to the mystery of the world with its deep oceans and dark forests. This notion of uncertainty, of doubt, contains an enormous amount of creative power and is always accompanied by a state of yearning for something beyond certitude, beyond comprehension.

Essentially, amidst all of these poetic, flowery verses — he writes to find out what he still does not know, and with writing, he can go beyond what he has been certain before.

In the recent The Convivial Society, L.M. Sacasas was reminded of W.H. Auden questioning our acceptance of “the notion that the right to know is absolute and unlimited.” In the age of information deluge like today, Auden posed a solution to know what needs to know (emphasis mine) — a solution of both reducing the collective anxiety of having/wanting to know everything at once, and a question of a moral responsibility of needing to know the important things at the right moment:

“We are quite prepared to admit that, while food and sex are good in themselves, an uncontrolled pursuit of either is not, but it is difficult for us to believe that intellectual curiosity is a desire like any other, and to recognise that correct knowledge and truth are not identical. To apply a categorical imperative to knowing, so that, instead of asking, ‘What can I know?’ we ask, ‘What, at this moment, am I meant to know?‘ — to entertain the possibility that the only knowledge which can be true for us is the knowledge that we can live up to — that seems to all of us crazy and almost immoral.”

Then there’s also the question of, who decides what’s the important things to know at the right moment? Maybe that’s the question for another day.

What I learned today:

  • Diglossia: The condition when a society has two languages or dialects that almost everyone speaks, each of which serves a distinct social function.
  • Columbusing: When one, usually from a more privileged community, discovers something that’s existed forever. Also, cultural appropriation.

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