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March 2008 Archives

March 3, 2008

Agwo afiok-ifiok ibot ache alia anjen (The individual who claims a monopoly of knowledge usually finds his eyes eaten by worms.

Proverb by Mr. Aniekan Akpan
Reflection by Dr. Ezekiel Ette

What is knowledge and how it is acquired belongs to the realm of philosophy and has been an intense subject of fascination for centuries. In the European enlightenment period and with an increased interest in science and the scientific process, some philosophers found it necessary to separate and distinguish between two kinds of knowledge namely science or empirical knowledge and non-empirical knowledge which they saw as inferior form of knowledge, among the later was religion or revealed knowledge. Our Annang forebears were more interested in the fact that a monopoly of knowledge was not possible and those who failed to acknowledge this were more likely to get killed and to become food for the worms. Those who claimed to know it all and failed to see the facts filtered through other lenses were likely to lend their eyes to the worms. The Annang were saying through this saying that reason may be influenced by experience, but those who fail to consider other views and are stubborn in the face of other facts risk harm.
We live in a world that is constantly changing and so what was true yesterday may not be true today. What is a fact in one place and culture ceases to be a fact elsewhere. What was considered something of value in a previous era may hold no such value to a new generation. The individual who refuses to acknowledge change and who fails to adjust accordingly, relying instead on values of a previous era may become a casualty of such false conviction. This year the world celebrates the half century mark of Chinua Achebe’s publication of Things Fall Apart, a fiction about a man who relied on old values and refuses to accept the changes of a new order. The tragedy of Okonkwo, the main character, in the end becomes an example of what can happen when individuals rely solely on their own understanding without reference to new ideas and new information. The 18th century German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once wrote that life belongs to the living, and he who lives must be prepared for changes. Healthy living therefore requires that we lay aside our prejudices and assumptions and stand prepared to learn and be changed by new ideas and new opportunities. Luciferian obstinacy and stubbornness is not only unwise but dangerous.
Sometimes we hold on to certain positions and seek to justify such stands on our culture, our religion, our experience and even our education. Knowledge is varied. Times change and ideas themselves do change based on new discoveries and understanding. The Chinese philosopher, Confucius is quoted as saying that those who want to be happy and wise must constantly change. What are you holding on as a fact? What are you willing to re-examine in your life? How often do you reflect on what you hold on as facts and how you get to know them as such? It is when we keep an open mind that we can accept something new; it is when we live with humility that we can learn and as someone once wrote, minds are like parachutes they only work when they are opened. May you claim the gifts that the universe has to offer today and may you find a taste of the new in every hour.

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