Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

The more you know, the less you understand

My title is borrowed from the Tao Te Ching (c.400 BC), written by ancient Chinese philosopher Laozi (a.k.a. Lao Tzu). Usually, his assertion is true; especially in matters of the heart (see song below). Recently, I noticed an exception at a macro level: the more you know, the more you understand.

At a micro level, we tend to get bogged down in the details. Allegedly, Harry Truman once said: if you can’t convince them, confuse them (eg, with details). Or the related saying: the devil is in the details. Hence, the observation by Laozi: the more you know, the less you understand.

The above may explain why people are less and less interested in hearing about the other side(s) of a story. It’s much easier to understand (and comment on) a one-dimensional rather than a multi-dimensional story. I suppose that it’s not easy for a judge to navigate through conflicting accounts of a story.

The context of the Laozi quote (see full quote below) makes (very) clear that Laozi understood the macro versus micro dilemma. The 47th chapter of the Tao Te Ching promotes a macro perspective. A micro focus comes with a warning: the more you will know, the less you will understand.

Without opening your door,
you can open your heart to the world.
Without looking out your window,
you can see the essence of the Tao.

The more you know,
the less you understand.

The Master arrives without leaving,
sees the light without looking,
achieves without doing a thing.

A quote by Lao Tzu from the Tao Te Ching, a book dated c.400 BC

I suppose that we no longer understand the heart of the matter. Our Western societies continue to increase the number of our experts and/or specialists, and continue to reduce the number of multidisciplinary generalists (a.k.a. experience). Losing perspective was its first victim; wisdom will be its last.

The Heart of the Matter (1989) by Don Henley
artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-artist, Wiki-song

But I’m learning to live without you now
But I miss you sometimes
The more I know, the less I understand
All the things I thought I knew
I’m learning again

Note: all markings (bolditalicunderlining) by LO unless in quotes or stated otherwise.


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