The Power of Knowing Nothing

Socrates believed that the beginning of the journey to wisdom was to know that you knew nothing. What can we take away from this idea in order to lead a more fulfilling life? Read on to find out!

The Power of Knowing Nothing

There are so many things that we can learn about, from science to history, literature to mathematics, psychology to philosophy. With the conception of the internet, the amount of information that is readily accessible to us has exponentially increased over the past few decades. Growing up and seeing technology rapidly evolve has been a wildly interesting spectacle. As a child, I would access information and gain knowledge from reading books, talking to adults, and watching the news on television. In my adolescent years, Wikipedia pages became the new age encyclopedias and YouTube videos started to gain traction. Now as an adult, I can acquire knowledge from all the above, as well as podcasts, audiobooks, and the ever-expansive internet. Over the years, as these new platforms emerged, I consistently felt that my understanding of the world became smaller and smaller in comparison to the sheer amount of information available to me. Until one day, the realisation hit me. I really know nothing.

I will admit that I am not the first to come to this revelation. A Greek philosopher named Socrates who lived around 400 BCE thought about how we perceived wisdom and knowledge. He believed that the beginning of the journey to wisdom was to know that you knew nothing. The knowledge that we currently do possess is vastly insignificant when compared with what we still must discover.

Like one star in the whole galaxy, so is the amount of what we know right now. With many other stars still out there, we must be willing to explore the infinite depths knowledge. Photo by Ivana Cajina.

If we were to put this philosophical piece of wisdom into action, it would mean putting our egos aside and humbling our minds by always learning. By understanding that we have so much more to learn and that our minds are capable of that should inspire us to be like a sponge. We absorb as much as we can to bring clarity to the perception of the world around us, moving towards a deeper awareness of society.

Taking on a mindset in which I can learn from every single person I meet has proven to be immensely humbling and added so much value to my life. As a teacher, I learn so much from my class of seven-year old’s, from knowing random animal facts to understanding how to be more present and anxious-free. Meeting them at their level and detaching myself from the stereotypical teacher role has improved my patience and increased the gratitude I have for the small moments of joy. The label of being a ‘classroom teacher’ does not mean that I am the only one who is teaching or passing on knowledge. Rather, I facilitate conversations and experiences in my classroom space which allow for multiple channels of teaching and learning, not only academically, but also socially, emotionally and spiritually for the children and myself. Furthermore, every teacher is unique in their pedagogy and identity. Hence, I am able to learn from my colleagues and their interactions with students and ways of doing. There are constantly so many avenues to extend myself and transform who I am, all from shifting my perspective on life.

You may not be a teacher or be in a profession that provides opportunities to communicate with a variety of people. However, you can still put Socrates’ idea into practice. For one day, put your ego to the side and really take the time to lean into your conversations with others, whether it be family, colleagues or friends. Actively listen to what they are communicating and try to find at least thing that you could learn from them. Is it learning to be courageous? Showing justice in difficult situations? Embracing uncertainty in life to achieve liberty? You will be surprised just how much you can learn from a simple interaction.

Philosophy is about the art of living. Use it as a tool to help you move towards a better version of yourself every day. The first step is to achieving wisdom is knowing that you know nothing, that what you already know is minuscule in comparison to what is out there. Then from there, you can authentically learn and grow yourself from a place of humility, curiosity and fulfilment.

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