The world only works through misunderstanding

The misunderstanding is universal

In My heart laid bare, Charles Baudelaire writes: “The world only works through misunderstanding. It is through universal misunderstanding that everyone agrees. Because if, unfortunately, we understood each other, we could never agree.” At first glance you might think that Charles has it all backwards. Aren’t those who understand each other perfectly the ones who get along best? Isn’t this the basis of the rampant wokism that has infected the entire society like the most terrifying epidemic?

You must read carefully. There is no need to “agree” among fellow human beings, since the thought is similar. Finding an agreement requires different opinions. Charles, like all poets, is a champion of diversity. He sees the world populated by pure originalities. Between them can only exist conflicts, each seeking to preserve its identity. Misunderstanding is universal, inevitably arising from differences.

Mental colonization

The worst thing in these conditions is to think that we understand others, when perfect understanding is out of reach. What we call “understanding the other” is appropriating them. We install in our minds the version of them that satisfies us. It is all good. “I understand you” refers less to recognition than to the second meaning of understanding, which is “to include.”

This is the misfortune of understanding ourselves: the refusal to recognize the fundamental independence of the other, the colonization of their world by ours. Because as good materialists we think that there is only one reality, that managed by universal micromechanisms. But this reality is not the world we perceive. Our mind has transformed it over the course of an original destiny, to make it a unique efflorescence among the infinity of possible representations.

The magic is in reality

Living in society is not about “understanding yourself” but about amplifying misunderstandings, the non-inclusion of others. It is with an acute awareness of differences that it becomes possible and necessary to agree. Finding an agreement is a strange process that brings about a solution to the conflict between these alien individual worlds, without making them disappear. How is such a magic trick possible?

The magic is that of complexity. All information processed by our mind belongs to independent layers of complexity. For example Baudelaire has just brought our attention to the meanings of ‘understand’ and ‘agree’. You and I are reweaving a layer of language, without yet talking about the circumstances where the meaning of the words takes on all its importance. Separate, yet entangled, levels of complexity.

Being conscious, a Sisyphean job

Our mind manages conflicts in the world, including in its own, with the complex dimension. It places information in levels that are both independent and inseparable. This is how we manage the inevitable neuroses harvested by the incessant conflicts of life: by creating behaviors emerging on top, complex solutions that have not made these neuroses disappear. This is also how we deal with conflict in society: by building social circles. The most complex are the most universal, imposing their rules through our social consciousness, without making our individual desires disappear.

Agreement is a perpetual conscious work. Consciousness is a Sisyphus condemned to push its rock up the slope only to see it roll down again. With one difference, however: the rock loses a little of its material each time. It then spreads a thin layer of sediment with each round trip. It rises, with Sisyphus above. Consciousness is like this: condemned to the weight of conflict, but rising on the geopsychic layers of their patient resolution.

Ages and Floors

This is why our understanding of the world varies terribly, from one age to another and from one individual to another. We never reach perfect understanding but we tend towards it, as our mind climbs the ladder of complexity, as consciousness pushes the rock of its conflicts. In controversies between young and old, it is a gap in complexity between worldviews rather than competing visions.

But who should make the effort to share the other’s vision? The young ? Impossible, their minds are far from having sufficiently sedimented. No choice, it is the old man who must descend into his geopsychic depths, if he is capable of doing so. The agreement first requires recognizing the differences… within the same level of complexity for both worlds. Not easy for the old man, whose instincts have become tired in the meantime. He forgot what he was. As for the young, they can only consider an agreement if the old man has shown them what awaits them, where the conflicts lead and the solutions that the ancestor was able to discover. All this packaged into an… education.

Descend from aged complexity

To say that education is the foundation of social life is a cliché, which leads to it being forgotten. The beautiful ordering of the complex mind of the old man can suddenly falter when it is too far removed from that of others, and in particular young people. Isolated in his splendor, the old man risks forgetting to look behind him and being crushed by the rock he had so much trouble climbing.

It is not because the elderly have completed their mission as parents that the education of the young is no longer their business. On the contrary, they have time available, which young parents devoured by working hours no longer have. Descend from the too stable complexity of the elderly world. Going down to the busy street. To get closer. To agree. Will our elders have this courage?


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