the tip of the iceberg

How many topics in life are you fully knowledgeable about?

I hope your answer is none, otherwise, there is no point in your reading this.

Remember how in school we studied that only a small part of the iceberg is above the surface of water? This is how everything you know about is. Think of any topic, astronomy, physics, technology, law, ethics, geometry… Every single topic in life is an iceberg, and you claiming you know almost everything about it defies the purpose of knowledge.

Why do we learn? Why do we spend so many hours at school learning about things, and then when we graduate claim that we don’t need them? I know you haven’t discussed any geographical piece of information you have learned, simply because you being with your friends having a pizza is not the kind of setting for a discussion about petroleum, the layers of the ground, and the OPEC. But imagine yourself in a place where three people you were seated with have majored in Petroleum Engineering. I know that this topic may be of zero interest to you, but it is nice to do more than nod; you might take it to a higher level and listen. This is what we basically learn in school: How to listen.

Listening is very different from hearing. The latter is merely perceiving a sound, while the first is giving your attention to a sound. If I am only perceiving, I am not basically attentive, I am only receiving this sound.

At school, we learn about many things. We learn about our planet, its resources, our country, its citizens, we learn about numbers, about characters, about spaces, volumes, areas, orbits, vectors, atoms, molecules, connections, cell divisions, living beings, hormones, civilizations, countries, languages, origins, races and everything else you can think of. Why do we learn a bit of everything, while we know, and our teachers too, that we won’t be using much of them in the future? Because receiving information about all of those teaches you how to become an active citizen. You don’t have to always be proactive. I wouldn’t expect to see all my high school friends in marches against domestic violence, nationality, refugees, politics, animal abuse, human rights, petroleum extraction violations, global warming, deforestation and the like. Being in those marches requires a level of devotion a proactive citizen has. School teaches us to choose a field we like, be devoted to it, and thus become proactive, aiming towards helping the entire nation overcome an issue, or to raise awareness regarding it. But being an active citizen requires basic listening skills. Listening skills and civilization are related: you being a good listener doesn’t necessitate that you are civilized, because you might listen and then fire or insult the other party. However, the opposite is true and you being civilized requires you being a good listener. So, in school, knowing a bit about everything (of course won’t kill you) helps you get yourself acquainted with the existence of those subjects in life. Can you imagine suddenly discovering geometry at the age of 16? Or human rights? Or child abuse?

In short, I think civilization transforms one from being a passive hearer to an active listener.

Why is it important to be civilized, and why is this idea the entire purpose of the existence of an education body called school? Because we don’t live with people who share our exact same interests and behaviors. I know that a main reason friendships and relationships are formed is because of common interests or beliefs, but we do exist with many people around us. Being civilized enables you to accept others without being self-conscious that they are there to harm you.

Here comes another misconception of civilization. Some people, sadly, think they are civilized. If you ever attack someone else for being different, you are not. Assuming they attacked you and you aggressively reacting doesn’t make you civilized either. Civilized people know how to defend their stand without adopting an aggressive reaction. This brings us to the insecurity I wrote about last time. Wanting to be the center of attention usually develops into a form of pretended civilization. A person at ease with his/her surroundings is a civilized person. Some people pretend they are, and you find them the next day either writing posts about homosexuals, or throwing trash on the streets, the simplest examples I could now think of.

We need more civilization around us, and only then will that iceberg rise slowly above the surface of water.


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