Archive for June 5th, 2007

The Things We Cannot Know

I posited in a recent post, somewhat sadly, that there is almost nothing in the world about which we do not know – but perhaps this assumption stepped too far. There may be much about the physical world that is explained, but the realm of human interaction remains a true mystery – an enigma expressed through conversation, conceptualized through words and art, but never exactly understood.

This point was brought to my attention today by a solid article by Christian Caryl. The piece uses the anecdote of the perpetual conundrum that is North Korea to illustrate the idea that – despite our greatest yearnings – there are still things about which we can only speculate [HT to Newsweek]:

Grounds for despair? No, just for a measure of humility. Journalists—and governments—need to do a better job of admitting to the public that any information about North Korea’s leadership is to be regarded with profound skepticism. To be sure, a few privileged insiders—former Kim employees, a kidnapped film director—have come forth to tell their stories. That’s how we know, for example, details of the Dear Leader’s luxury-loving ways. Yet there have been almost no defectors from the upper ranks of the leadership who have been willing to reveal significant details about what makes the regime tick—presumably for fear of retribution against them or their families. Perhaps it’s just hard for many of us, wallowing in an age of instant messaging and tell-all blogs, to believe that there are limits to what we can know about other human beings […]

This is something that I (and, I would guess, most of my generation) am (is) certainly guilty of; the idea that something can’t be found on Google has become mind-blowing, but since when did we become so reliant on second-hand tales? The old adage holds: “Don’t believe everything you read.” This should be an incentive for us to explore for ourselves.

Food for thought – happy travels.


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