Not one that I’ve seen. Although I doubt I’m a likely candidate for enlightenment at my current rate of self obsession and materialism.
It always strikes me as odd that the word understand implies the notion of standing under something. There’s almost a notion of submitting to something to gain knowledge of it, or at least the visual pun of a mechanic gazing upwards into the belly of a car hoisted above him on a pneumatic lift.
Yet we think of knowledge more often as dominance, as power and strength.
I think the first is probably more true, at least as far as true understanding is concerned. Whatever that means.
Let’s try and label here. It is definitely possible to understand certain aspects of what appears to be the world around us. I understand, to some extent, how this duvet is keeping me warm. I don’t understand exactly why my gut feels so sour at the moment, but I’m aware of enough details of the digestive system to be able to visualise the pain into something that makes sense.
I understand roughly how plumbing works, and what the internet is.
These are physical concerns, and they get complicated, but they are understandable. I don’t really understand quantum physics, but I’ve heard enough metaphors to have a vague idea.
Hows are quite easy, it’s when we try to get to whys that we start having problems. For understanding to be ‘pure’ does it need to include reasons, whys and so forth?
I think the human insinct at the very least points to yes. As the only other consciousnesses I’m capable of communicating with, that’s the broadest generalisation I can make (I recently decided to flag up to myself all of my generalisations as I make them, this will probably make this blog boring, so I’ll avoid it on here, but imagine some kind of klaxon going off and me feeling sad because of it). It appears that humanity like’s to know why things happen, and we’re quite good at building elaborate stories, mythologies, religions and the like to help explain.
‘Why’ requires a leap of faith. As someone generally unable to furnish myself with actual faith, I tend to see the universe as an incredibly unlikely coincidence. No reason why, just a world that seems impossible, but appears to actually be here.
I don’t think this is understanding, I just think this is a bit depressing.
I was more warmed by this.
Enlightenment consists only of really knowing what makes you feel like you, and realizing that other people feel much the same way about themselves.
The devil is in the detail, in that I suspect ‘really knowing’ requires a lot more hard work than I’ve yet put in. But there’s something to search for there, something that doesn’t require faith so much as self exploration and a recognition of others.
These are important to me.
If there’s understanding that’s pure. That’s where it is.
Illustration by Helen