[Having] been reduced to the perplexity of realizing that he did not know… he will go on and discover something. (Meno 84a-d, Lamb translation)
Have you ever been in a situation where you realized that you didn't know what you didn't know? It's kind of hard to articulate. Another way to say it is that you realize that you don't know enough to even know what you don't know. How about that for a sentence? The thought is just as awkward as the turn of phrase.
In Greek, the term is "Aporia" literally "perplexity" or "reaching an impasse". It means coming to a point where you become aware of your own ignorance. You know that you don't know. For Socrates, this was a great place to be. This is where you cross a border from the cave of ignorance into the real world - the place of discovery. The shock of coming to realize that you are ignorant, that you don't know everything (even some things that you think you know) is to come to a place of intellectual humility.
Have you ever done something thinking you were right, then argued about it. You know that you are right, no way you could be wrong. Then come to find out, you were wrong. (Shazaam is a movie from the '90s with Sinbad!) That's the feeling, right there.
Aporia is healthy. It's a place where we can truly humble ourselves and allow ourselves to grow. We aren't the masters of our own lives, and the more we realize this, the better we become. G.K. Chesterton wrote that the lunatic wants to take the entire universe into his head, and in doing so, the universe crushes his mind. The rational person doesn't try to fit all things into his mind, but seeks an ocean to let his mind expand into.
This is how we learn, this is how we grow. How beautiful is this idea that by beginning by acknowledging our own emptiness, we begin the path to true discovery. No one is fixed. We are always in a state of becoming; there is always another thing you can do to grow.
Do you feel like this at times? At school? At work? In relationships?
If you find yourself in a state of Aporia - rejoice, for now you can go and truly discover.
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