The illusion of knowledge

Recently I had the pleasure of training with Maul Mornie in Paris. You can see what Maul does in a video below. The way Maul teaches in these seminars is to spend some time on basic drills, then go on to sequences of techniques which he demonstrates multiple times on one of his senior students.

I watch the techniques unfold, I watch them again and again. I have a sense of ‘Yes, that’s logical, I can do that’.

Then I pair up with a partner and .... and ... here is where the illusion shows itself.

I realise that however clear it felt when I was watching, I’m not sure what to do. I have to start piecing it together, perhaps ask to see it again.

Up until that point I believe I can do the technique. I am fairly confident that I know it. It’s not until I test myself that I know that I actually don’t really know.

Even in this domain of movement where I am well practised I can kid myself about what I know, or perhaps especially because I am well practised I can kid myself.

What fascinates me is where else does this apply. Where else am I absolutely sure that I know something when actually I am fairly clueless?

Books are one example. There are plenty of books that I have read that I would struggle to recall or summarise with any value. A principle here, a detail there, a general sense of familiarity - they all create the illusion of knowledge.

Another thing that fascinates me is how others manipulate these illusions. Maija is skilled in applications of this.

I also have illusions that I know how the world works.

To place this article in a historic context I am writing it the weekend after the Brexit referendum. I spent a day with a horrible sense of loss, and disorientation. My mind was filled with everything that was going to go wrong in the coming years - the unravelling of the EU and the descent of Europe into the petty, nationalist and fascist warring states that shaped so much of the last century. I was angry the people who voted ‘out’ so sure they had voted from fear and ignorance and racism (so different from my ‘knowledge’).

The evening of the vote I went out to climb some trees. The trees were the same, the sky was still as wide and transparent (even if I wondered how the invisible aspects of the sky had changed, the how the C02 concentrations would vary in time as a result of the vote)  My mind calmed. I could be content not to know what the future held, and focus back on my abilities to act.

And back to the manipulation. How many times to Politicians lie to us and we take it for truth?

The closer the truth comes to our prejudices the easier it is for us not to check.

Look at the other side.

Don’t be so sure you know, whether that is you know if you will fail or know you will succeed, whether you know the future is doom or brightness.

Can you get back to the present? Back into your body where you can examine your projections and not just react to them.

A work in progress.

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