Monday, March 2, 2009

Each According to His Own Lights

There is an old European saying, there are a thousand audiences, and there are a thousand Shakespeares. Everyone has his own understanding; everyone to his own taste.

There is an ancient Chinese proverb, “The benevolent see benevolence; the wise see wisdom.” When viewing a same activity, the kindhearted see kindheartedness; the wicked see wickedness; the obscene see obscenity. Each one perceives according to one’s own lights.

In the real life, we may behave like the six blind men who touch an elephant to figure out how it looks like, stumbling blindly, touching only small parts of the information, and coming away with a narrow and fragmented understanding, jumping at a quick conclusion and then believing we can represent the truth.

People have different family backgrounds, personal experiences, cultural customs and social economic situations. The reality is observed differently depending on one's perspective, as a result, what is deemed an absolute truth may be relative due to the deceptive nature of half-truths. And a half-truth may be a total lie.

Everyone has blind spots in every aspect of life; however, we are unaware of our ignorance, we assume we know all and we make good judgments. We have to accept the inadequacy of human observation and reason. Don’t grasp only a part of the object, but claim comprehending the whole, because the result is bound to be false and one-sided.

The first step to true wisdom is to recognize and accept the limits of one’s own ignorance. Understand we have limitations; there is always something that we don’t know or don’t see, and even what we see isn’t always what it seems.


V said...

That's certainly the right kind of wisdom for surviving a corporate life. It's not always easy to see the bigger picture. Besides, the ground may shift. It's always better to stay humble!

Jade Meng said...

I remember you wrote an article "360 degree feedback". Taking an allround view is much better than hearing a lop-sided opinion. Being humble is good, especially in an Asian corporation.