We all consider certain things and ideas to be a given. The sun rises and sets, there are 60 minutes in an hour, and death is inevitable are all examples of a known or established facts. As we grow up and experience life we develop our perspectives around what we consider to be givens. For example, “the sun rises and sets” we know that it is day time and can even predict the time of day based on the position of the sun. From sundials to digital clocks this is the the original foundation of measuring time. The crazy thing about this given and many other givens is that it is not always a given. In the most northern town in Alaska the sun isn’t seen for 67 days in the winter and 80 days of straight sunlight in the summer. Actually, the sun doesn’t rise or set at all. According to science the Earth revolves around the sun and only appears to rise and set from our perspective. What I am trying to convey here is that even what we may consider the most basic given can be subjective, based on perspective, and may even be wrong. Here are 5 ways we are hurt by what we think we know:
1. You cannot fill a cup that is already full –
When it comes to gaining new information feeling as if we are already in the know can be one of our biggest barriers to overcome. When we presume we know certain things we often overlook or dismiss new takes on the subject and often adopt self-righteous attitudes towards those who question or explore new perspectives. This is how we come to laugh at conspiracy theories and theorist only to later find in some cases they were right to open their minds or “empty their cup”.
2. Easily controllable – Most of what are considered to be established facts are common knowledge. We as a people turn certain ideas into sayings and traditions that are wide spread. These traditions based on history, religion, & our relationships with each other are fused into our culture. This not only makes us predictable in certain areas, but easily manipulated. Knowledge is power not only by gaining it, but controlling it. If your enemy knows everything you know they can easily defeat you right? Right. What if they taught you everything you know?
3. No independent thoughts – Givens are known by the masses this is often how they become givens. When you hear people say things like “Everybody knows that” or begin a sentence with “They say..” you can assume that these ideas are expected to be well known and widely accepted. The problem here is that the masses isn’t the best place to go for knowledge or intelligence. Being a widely accepted idea does nothing to verify it’s substance, morality, or validity. Slavery was well known and widely accepted by the masses does that mean it was right? When you don’t question things that you assume to be true based on hearsay or common knowledge you can almost guarantee that most of your thoughts surrounding these topics aren’t your own.
4. Doing things without question – We do and say so many things out of habit or tradition that we don’t even know the origins of. For instance when we celebrate birthday’s we put candles on a cake light them and make a wish. This is common practice and a given in most of our homes, but I’m sure no one regularly relates this practice to witchcraft although this is exactly where it comes from. I don’t personally see this as a bad thing, but it is an example of how we just accept things without question. Many of us tend to take what we are told as givens without questioning the ideas or the sources. We repeat harmful things like “Boys will be boys”, to excuse awful behavior from males & “stop crying before I give you something to cry about” dismissing a child’s feelings out of pure habit. I’m not saying that all or even most of what we do habitually is wrong or bad what I’m saying is we should take the time out to make sure that they aren’t.
5. We pass it on as law – Everything we think we know we pass on to our children. Our kids adopt our perspectives and take on our givens early in life because they really don’t have a choice. Religion, education, social ideals, and constructs all start in the home and community. The same way that the givens we adopt impact us they will also impact our children. Generation after generation we pass on the good and bad. I think it’s time to start passing down the ambition and drive to create our own givens and find our individual truths by seeking and analyzing what we think we know.
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