Listening: On knowledge and meaning over time

“There is a really beautiful commencement address that Adrienne Rich gave in 1977 in which she said that, “an education is not something that you get, but something that you claim.” And I think that is very much true of knowledge itself. … We’ve been infected with this pathological impatience that makes us want to have the knowledge, but not to do the work of claiming it. The true material of knowledge is meaning, and the meaningful is the opposite of the trivial. The only thing that we should have gleaned by skimming and skipping forward [in a long article or a video] is trivia. And the only way to glean knowledge is contemplation. And the road to that is time. There’s nothing else. It’s just time. There’s no shortcut for the conquest of meaning. And ultimately, it is meaning that we seek to give to our lives.”

“We never see the world exactly as it is. We see it as we hope it will be or we fear it might be. And we spend our lives going through a sort of modified stages of grief about that realization. And we deny it, and we argue with it, and we despair over it, but eventually — and this is my belief — we come to see it not as despairing, but as vitalizing! We never see the world exactly as it is because we are how the world is. I think it was William James who said, “my experience is what I agree to attend to, and only those things which I notice shape my mind.” And so in choosing how we are in the world, we shape our experience of that world, or contribution to it; we shape our world: our inner world, our outer world, which is really the only one we’ll ever know. And to me, that’s the substance of the spiritual journey, and that’s not an exasperating idea, but an infinitely emboldening one.”

“Once again, I am gonna side with Thoreau. He said something like, “if the day and night are such that you greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers, it’s more elastic and more starry and more immortal, that is your success.” And for me, that’s pretty much it. Waking up and being excited and curiously restless to face the day ahead and being very present with that day, and then going to bed feeling like it actually happened, that the day was lived; there’s nothing more than that really.”

–Krista Tippett speaks to Maria Popova, creator of Brain Pickings, in her podcast On Being

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