In a previous post I observed that the depressive always thinks he or she knows best, and that this false conception of omniscience is a cornerstone of the depressed state of mind. To turn this earlier observation on its head, what could be more liberating than to realise how little one knows? It is liberating in that it a) means our negative presumptions about ourselves and our lives can be challenged and b) removes us from the awful rigidity that must come with the misplaced belief that we already know it all, that there is nothing left to learn.
I have been sober for just over four months. This is (so far as I can recall) my fourth attempt in a year and a half to get ‘clean’, to rid myself of the pernicious curse that alcohol has become. In that time, through attending various AA and Addaction group meetings I have come to appreciate how little I truly know. And that is truly a refreshing thought.
To be aware of the finiteness of one’s knowledge is to be humbled, and to be humbled is to be liberated at least in part from the burden of one’s ego, which I have come to believe is the root of all misery, both self-inflicted and that inflicted upon others. And what could be more humbling than the following realisation: take everything I know and place it besides all the things I don’t know, and we are talking about a single grain of sand on a beach. How to build a wall, organise a conference, construct a C-drive, run a factory… just a handful of random things I do not have the slightest inkling about.
This is why cooperation matters. This is why it will be, as Russell had it, the salvation of mankind. Left alone and isolated, human beings are reduced at best to a stolid, rude self-sufficiency, Crusoesque. Put the skills and talents of us all together and you have the makings of civilization, a twin-edge sword ’tis true but undeniably capable of elevating the human condition if used wisely. As a recovering alcoholic I am reminded daily of the importance of fellowship and cooperation; left to my own devices I become Crusoeque in my struggle against dependency and the malaise that underpins it, but through joining forces with my fellow alcoholics this struggle becomes elevated from a rear-guard action against the savage wilderness of my darker nature to something directional and forward-looking, an emotional journey that is capable of spiriting me to a new level of existence. An existence that does not look to a mind-bending substance for support or sustenance.