Try Not Knowing

The greatest thing you can do upon meeting someone new is to recognize that you do not know them.

What you see, how you feel… these things will mislead you. We are manipulated by patterns and repetition. Once we see 5 trees grow to the same height with the same fruit, we start to fail at believing the next one could be different.

No one likes to be categorized, but our brains are wired to categorize everything. It’s a sick game that leaves us embracing the snap-judgments of others.

To make things even trickier, the more you learn – that is, the more knowledge you stuff into your head – the harder it is to give up the categories. As scholars, as consumers of data, we instinctively look for patterns. And we always find them. The patterns we rely on after we read the book may be different than the ones we had prior, but they still hold the same dangerous promise.

When scientists do experiments — the ones who actually want to further our species — they will hold loosely to their beliefs, regardless of how long they’ve been following them. This leaves an opening for the outlier, the anomaly that says so much more than the sameness it is surrounded by.

The good scientist, the good human will not allow the 5 trees to become a rule.

And because of this, they will catch the slight curve of the bark in the 6th tree, a beautiful divergence that was missed by so many others who have long since put down their clipboards, kicked up their feet, and published their ideas.

It’s so much better to not know, for you, the tree, the forest, and the fruit.