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For most of my life I have embraced the idiom, “people are people.” To me, the idiom means that human beings are basically the same everywhere and if we can understand ourselves we can understand others. So as not to sound too solipsistic I will expand the idea: I assumed that I could anticipate everyone—on some level—if I took the time to examine them through my own worldview and experience with the human race. I am beginning to change my mind.

 

The author Aleksandra Ninkovic writes:

“Fog is more dangerous than dark, as it gives the illusion of seeing.”

 

Sight gives us confidence for as long as we are moving forward into space. When our eyes are open we can put one foot in front of the other along a path that is either clear or obstacle-laden without damaging our bodies. Our natural eyes perceive the concrete world with a certainty that leaves no room for questions: the brick wall in front of me IS solid. There IS a chair two feet ahead. The sun IS shining through the pale yellow leaves on the Autumn trees.

 

When there is a layer of something other than clearly lit air filling the atmosphere, it is like a shade being drawn down over our natural sight.

 

If the shade is one of darkness, our reaction can be to acquiesce our desire to move quickly to the need for slowness. In the dark, we seek new information about our surroundings with the help of our other four senses: this new information helps us move toward our goal. We have learned that this is the only way to remain both safe and on our chosen path inside darkness.

 

If the shade pulled down around us is fog we tend to move in the same way as we would in the sunlight. As long as we can see the space available for our immediate next steps—three-by-three or one-by-one, at least—we can rely on our own expectations and experience to move forward. Fog, I would assert, institutes a sense of calmness, fluidity and softness. We do not necessarily rely on the use of our other four senses. We rely on our sight and our confidence and our willingness to move forward.

 

What if darkness were a lack of knowledge and fog were a misunderstanding of knowledge? Which would be more dangerous?

 

If we lack knowledge, we can gather knowledge.

 

Like apples that glisten through the branches of an apple orchard, information hangs all around us. We gather information like apple pickers—we are drawn to the brightest reds, the ripest fruit, and the sweetest smelling orbs that hang within our reach. Apples of knowledge fill our wicker baskets and we make plans for how we will employ the aromatic treasures hanging from our arms. There are pies to be made, applesauce to create and caramel waiting to drip itself onto the flesh of our gems. We use the apples we have chosen to create the recipes that make our mouths water.

 

Just as we gather apples, we gather knowledge and based on the knowledge we have, we create recipes that make our own world more palatable.

 

If I live in America, I will probably use my apples to make an Apple Pie. If I live in Germany, I might use them to make Apfelschorle (carbonated apple juice).

 

If I live in America, I may view the knowledge in my basket through the tenets of Christianity, Abraham Lincoln and Oprah. If I live in Germany, the knowledge in my basket may be subject to the thoughts of Friedrich Nietzsche, Immanuel Kant and Hannah Arendt.

 

The trees from which we pick our apples are the same—grown from the same earth on which we all walk—and yet the raw material itself becomes unrecognizable as it is melted, chopped up and reshaped according to varying recipes.

 

If one piece of information is one apple, the information is turned into something concrete that we can see, hear, touch, taste and smell. Either you have the apple with which to make the recipe or you do not.

 

To further the idea wherein if we lack knowledge we can gather knowledge (I am now using the words knowledge and information interchangeably), I will add the idea of fog as a misunderstanding of knowledge. I hope you will forgive the simplicity with which I expand the metaphor:

 

If you pick apples in the orchard of life and your culture, experience and society tells you to make Berentzen (a German apple liquor) and I do not recognize your concoction, I might assume that you made regular ol’ apple juice. Misunderstanding the ingredients in the glass I might take a big gulp of it and then get into my car to drive somewhere. I might put it in a recipe in lieu of apple juice. I might even give it to my 5-year-old next-door neighbor as a refreshing treat. Alcohol laden Berentzen that is mistaken for apple juice could be dangerous, or even deadly.

 

Apples are apples. They are raw material. But people are not necessarily people in that people are not raw material. People are not all the same. They are a composite of the recipes they follow as they gather, cook and serve life to one another.

 

While I could easily move into a political direction here, I am going to refrain. I do not wish to discuss the issues of the day as the media directs them. The media has become the Grand Conductor of a symphony whose instruments are rusting in the storms of this age. Instead of jumping into the rain, I prefer to seek shelter and protect the integrity of the sound produced by my individual instrument.

 

Instead of bowing to politics I will lower my head to a greater purpose. I want to examine the way in which our communication with other people is guided by darkness and fog.

 

Thus begins my next series.  How do a lack of knowledge and a misunderstanding of knowledge affect our communication with others?

 

Jill Szoo Wilson

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