Ignorance is Bliss
It’s not what you know, they said, it’s who you know. Well . . . ! In Malcolm Gladwell’s excellent Talking to Strangers, he uncovers we are rubbish at truly knowing others. Gladwell starts with relating the numerous Cuban double-agents embedded in the CIA, of which there are tonnes. And we’re not just talking in the 60’s, we’re talking at the turn of the millennium. On their eventual uncovering, colleagues and even family are stunned. These artisans of lies duped them all. For sometimes decades. The problem, it seems, is with us. We’re deluded.
We have a view that we, personally, are complex. We, after all, are different. We’re elusive. We’re an enigma wrapped up in a Rubik’s cube encased in the same tricksy plastic that scissors are packaged in. Everyone else? Oh, they’re simple, far easier to work out. How many times have we run our eyes over a person’s shoes, shorts, trousers, skirt, t-shirt, jumper, jacket or hat and thought a) they look pretty warm in all that! b) ahh I see, they’re this type of person, not realising we’re wearing exactly the same thing. This is called the illusion of asymmetric insight. In other, smaller words, we think we know more about other people than they do about us.
This is the second book of Gladwell’s that I’m enjoying this week, his break-out Outliers, examining the factors that contribute to high levels of success, is fantastic. Unfortunately, this is running in parallel with the Mark Manson’s Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fu** which can be summarised through a) sweary book-titles sell millions b) we give a fu** about the wrong things c) we should question ourselves more - what we think is true today may not be true tomorrow. Ruminating on the famous Greek aphorism at Delphi, ‘know thyself’, this seems only applicable in its immediacy. It should be, ‘know thyself now . . . and now . . . and how about now?’
When combining both tomes of Gladwell and Manson, it leads to the conclusion that not only do we not know ourselves, we don’t know anyone else either! And you thought the biggest challenge today was purely it being a Monday, and now you don’t even know who you or anyone else is. If anyone would like to join me in writing my third book, ‘who the fu**ing fu** is that f**?’ you’ll be most welcome.
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