Power of the unknown | Sunday Observer

Power of the unknown

8 November, 2020

In the 70s, the ozone layer became the most threatening external environmental factor following the signs of depletion due to chemicals released by the industry, endangering life on Earth.

However, in 2003, scientists announced that the depletion may be slowing down, ownership of which was quickly claimed by the people without admitting the compulsion that pushed all countries – 196 of them, to reduce the use of substances such as chlorofluorocarbons. It is now estimated that the ozone layer will recover to 1980 levels in the middle of the 21st century.

If one looks into history, a fair account of incidents - personal, social or political, can be checked as to the accuracy of any predictions that were made prior to their occurrence. If such prophecy is probable, we would be living in a pleasant world even in occasional anguish or in a prolonged destitute with some preparedness ahead of time.

While this being not the case, the emphasis is made here to speak on a key determinant of happiness in life or motivation in business which is the recognition of ‘the Unknown’ or ‘unknowability’.

The writer does not mean ‘the unknown’ to be Apophatic or the Negative theology nor does he refer to other traditions of Negatives advocated by some authors. Instead, it is proposed that the unknowability can occupy a central place in learning and understanding or at least perceiving the way in which common humans make assumptions.

In the article: ‘How Do We Know What Cannot Be Known?’ some realities have been brought to light at the 38th Social Research Conference of the Centre for public scholarship in New York.

There, it is explained “From the earliest moments of humanity’s search for answers and explanations, we have grappled with the unknowable — that which we are unable or not permitted to know.”

In this background, many myths have come into being such as knowledge based or assumed correlations. The time seems right to be blunt on the subject area which has been hitherto rejected by the might of the ‘knowledge’ based on perceptions and opinions.

“I don’t know”

Interestingly, Donald Rumsfeld’s famous statement, “There are known knowns … known unknowns … and unknown unknowns,” to which Fintan O’Toole added “unknown knowns”. These challenge a good part of knowledge- driven formulas.

It is suggested that most of the issues, local or global, may be resolved only if the humans are prepared to accept the true nature of the unknown, and that is simply embracing “I don’t know”.

The most recent example is the Covid-19 where it is said while the superpowers are restless to find a potential vaccine, Wuhan has overcome the virus by simply drinking hot water and inhaling steam. Again we don’t know if it is true.

I wrote previously that “ever changing circumstances” beyond the usual environmental analysis in January 2020 which in a way places the traditional behavioral teachings such as positive thinking, on trial.

The reality is that no such analysis could foresee many global situations except responding to day-to-day developments which may compel people either to new opportunities or perish. We wouldn’t know. The proactive approaches that are taught through knowledge based learning models may be overturned by inevitable responsive actions in which innovation or creativity may emerge. The established post theories cannot describe the unknown occurrences and that applies to the majority of personal stories, rise and fall of institutions and political changes.

What would the power of the unknown then offer? First, to be mindful of the changing circumstances that cannot be controlled by humans except being responsive to them.

There was a recent article on the “windfall Covid-19 has brought to wildlife” in national parks in Sri Lanka. This may be the case in other countries too.

The Universe appears to be rectifying herself not giving priority to humans. This raises the question as to which occurrence, the Great Depression or WW2 was crueler or whether the latter remedied the former while neither of them was predicted ahead of time.

Second, of billions of profits declared each year by business conglomerates across the world, how much security has been retained for the people who contributed to continued success, at least with a common fund to face shattering situations like this? The achievements based on wealth, ROI, profits or brand values are interpreted in universal law as social justice, conservation of biodiversity and equality.

Third, the unknowability urges humans to find ways of surviving in the long run as against growth through vicious rivalry. Competition kills another through marketing warfare that is openly promoted through literature as frontal attack, flank attack, bypass attack which could appear as mere concepts within a scenario of varying circumstances.

Fourth, the unknowability arouses the need to divest interests from one to another. Minimising the dependence on one expertise to another in a different sphere say from Industry to Agriculture, would have come in handy in current situation.

Fifth, the unknowability enables people to take a hard look at themselves and call for an inward journey.

Such an audit into our inner machines would open the awareness into one’s own thoughts, sensations, feelings and emotions to find out if personal beliefs are really true which if not, would pave the way for more altruism.

Education systems leading to ego building is a symptom of the ignorance of the power of the unknown that operates beyond human comprehension.

Slavery to wealth and power is obstructing the universal law that has to find redress to the problems caused by humans.

Comprehending the power of the unknown will perhaps reveal its true nature that may well be nothing but unconditional love leading to compassion across people and all beings on the planet.

The writer is an academic of Edith Cowan University, Perth