I prefer the unknown

2020-09-29 @Blog

One reason why I refrain from smartphones, open-ended internet browsing, and why I subscribe to silence and detachment as a standard regime, is for the heightened pleasure in the unknown and the unexplained.

There is a trait I find far more prevalent among active smart phone users, in contrast to the abstainers. That trait is the itch for a quick answer, an explanation, or some linkage with a universally accepted concept or peg.

With the device nearly always at the fingertips, it becomes a sort of a third brain. It’s effortless to conduct an inquiry and obtain an almost instant resolution to any doubt that may creep up; at least any doubt expressible in the form of a question-answer.

Most of my interactions with active smartphone users give some manifest to the above behavior, beyond further cybernetic qualities the being subtly comes to exhibit. And each passing year I face an increased struggle to maintain lengthy interactions with most people across the profile.

One of the characteristics I most cherish in a human being is the taste for a bit of mystery and the imprecise; the contentment in suspense. This differentiates us from a machine crafted for rapid problem solving.

With a smartphone, that quintessential boundary between man and machine suffers severe structural abuse. While it is not inherently our brain that crunches the numbers, it becomes primed for the expectation, being the smart phone an immediately employable accessory. It becomes our extension, in the likes of an assistant of genius IQ, though lacking the sense of humour.

For my part, I don’t care to address so many questions. I rather leave matters afloat. I rather fantasize and philosophize. (And still sometimes I proceed in total discordance with that ideal.)

I tend to observe natural phenomena whose underlying mechanism I’ve not the precise explanation for. This may concern the semi-triangular formations of geese floating along the lake the other day. Or the similarly organized flocks of winged creatures roaming the skies. Or the fascinating structure within ant colonies. Or the myriads of other animal or plant-based mechanisms.

And be it that I’ve forgotten how certain things function, or be it that I never adequately learned, I usually don’t care for the precise measurements that instant. I’m happy to appeal to intuition or even fabricate my own rationale, especially in blissful moments of spontaneity and among questions of no remotest consequence.

A smartphone frenzied companion would probably resolve to ease my uncertainty. The person would entreat me to ‘Google it’ or at least emphasize how feasibly and quickly such an inquiry would clear up all wonders; or undertake the matter personally, right then and there.

Questions of purely academic curiosity often come up in conversation. Like an expression of unclear origin, a peculiar historical phenomenon, a socioeconomic metric, or a foreign word whose meaning we can’t quiet intuit. A smartphone addict would face an insurmountable urge to ‘Google it’, right there at the dining table, never mind the otherwise engaging interaction.

Once that occurs, or better yet, at the mere suggestion of yielding to the smartphone, the balloon bursts. The magic dissipates.

Where is that human capacity to embrace the tension in the unknown? To circumnavigate open matters? To hypothesize? To create own interpretations? To leave the analytics for later in presence of an organic human interchange?

That motion towards immediate resolution takes the piss out of the whole affair. And this idiomatic expression I’ve just leveraged, I must have acquired in some movie or book long ago. But I’m not the least bit anxious for the source. I’m perfectly at ease to leave it thus.

There’s beauty in the unknown, in the unresolved, in the mysterious. We recognize this subconsciously, yet neglect in practice:

An ancient, esoteric proverb allures all the more once left to independent interpretation, rather than drilled in plain, transparent form.

Poetry bears greater fruit when unobstructed with endless clarifying remarks and footnotes.

A person’s appeal heightens (to certain bounds) once motives and behaviors cannot be readily anticipated or explained.

Foreign language acquisition gains greater traction once you submerge into the overall flow, in contrast to having someone pester the meaning of every unclear subtlety.

Literature produces greater charm when left to own interpretative faculty, rather than open for dissection to rigorous critique and meta-commentary.

Be content with the unknown, fellow human species.

Questions, comments? Connect.