Four levels of knowing

Some years back when my graduating film had just wrapped up with it’s shooting I walked out of my house utterly dazed. It had been a grueling ten day shoot which had me spent; wallet and everything else. Watching the footage meter on the back of the Ariflex camera blur around was like seeing something on the dash of a rocket taxi to the moon. I was now in debt, and there was a tiny window of time between the film’s wrapping and a three month haul in front of the editing machine.

I walked in to the local grocery shop to get away from the heat from the footpath, and the wonderful and jumbled smell of fresh fruit brought me back to sometime long ago when I was a kid at the markets. It was cool and pretty dark and my eyes needed time to catch up from a hullabaloo of light outside.

He didn’t call it that, he called it the Quattro livelli di conoscenza. And he told me about it and didn’t let up until he thought I understood it. There were a few people milling about, and I heard the sound of someone laughing with absolute joy. It was coming from a room at the back of the small shop and I walked towards the door ajar there. Inside there was an elderly man sitting at a card table and he was drinking something pretty strong and home made by the looks of the large bottle with a cork in it. We were the only people there and he looked at me and didn’t miss a beat of his tearful laughing when he said, “Listen to the cricket, just listen to it…”

Nearby was an old transistor radio and the cricket was playing, so I listened to it hoping to get the joke. Quite frankly I didn’t get it and thought maybe the guy was happy on his grappa and that was that. He leaned forward and said, “No, listen to the other cricket, can you hear the cricket ?” It was then that I heard the sound of the chirping of a cricket that I’d missed before.

I didn’t think the joke was all that funny, but I was very amused by this man I’d never clapped eyes on before. He gestured me to sit and share a drink and so we did. We sat there sharing some of his strong grappa and although we were poles apart in our age and backgrounds we did have this short time together and he told me about the “four levels of knowing.”

He didn’t call it that, he called it the Quattro livelli di conoscenza. And he told me about it and didn’t let up until he thought I understood it.

Now you have to understand I’m not retelling this moment with him as an earthbound Yoda or a swami in a cave with a beard as long as his name. This was just a man who knew something interesting and wanted to tell me about it and he did. Now I’m going to tell you about it and I’m using an analogy here with chess.

Level 1. Unconsciously Unaware:

When you are a toddler you know nothing of chess. You’ve never seen a chess board and you have never heard the word “chess” before.It’s here at level one you are not even aware that you know nothing of chess. You don’t know that you don’t even know.

Level 2. Consciously Unaware:

For the first time you see a chess game in play. Someone says “look, they’re playing chess.” You now know that there is a game called chess but you have no idea how to play it. You are at level two because you know that you are aware that you know nothing of chess. You know that you don’t know.

Level 3. Consciously Aware:

You are playing the game and you are very new at it. As you move each piece you have to remind yourself how each piece moves differently. The rules of the game are always in your mind, and it’s this that makes the play of the game a battle not on the board but in your head as you try to remember them. You not only know of chess, you can play it. This is the third level because you know that you know.

Level 4. Unconsciously Aware:

Years have past and you play at a competition level. You never give a thought about the rules and now you think of tactics only. While you play your mind may wander a moment to something else like a song or a conversation you’d had years before. You can think these things and play chess at the same time and your game is the same. You’re an expert. You’re at the highest level because when it comes to chess you are not aware that you’re thinking about the game while you’re playing it. You are so aware it has you asleep to how aware you are.

That’s just chess. There’s all the other things out there that have you at “competition level.” You tie your shoe laces up while wondering if warm beer’s better than cold. When you drive a car you listen to music and make words from the number plate in front of you.

All of us are at level four in many ways and in so many other ways we are level three or less. When we do our taxes, we are flying by the seat of our duds, and if we plant a fruit tree in the garden it’s normal to read about how much sun it needs and therefore where best to plant it. That’s most of us, but for an accountant or a botanist it’s a different story because at level four they never think about thinking about it and their minds are free to wander elsewhere.

So what the hell does any of this have to do with you and me? Well, the thing is because you and I know about the Quattro livelli di conoscenza. We can go about our ways better as MRA’s.

Have you ever been spluttering with impotent annoyance at a social gathering when someone dumps on blokes? I have and it burns my face red. When it happens I find myself trying to remember stats and sources of credible information and while I am doing this the moment has passed. The sensation of letting myself and you down stays with me and I play the moment over in my head like a creepy sound bite on a loop.

I’m at level three with these things. I am consciously aware of myself trying as hard as I can to remember the information here in the Mission and Values, and it’s not just that. There’s the shaming tactics I know about but wish to draw upon in a trice when I’m shamed.

There’s no way I’m wanting to score points in a misandric hotbed, I simply want to defeat with rapid grace. I can’t do this at level three. I just can’t while I’m checking the rules and the facts and wondering if I have the numbers and names right. My impotence is secured for the more dilligent feminists, and if there are passive blue pillarians there as well I have missed my moment. I can’t go on like this and I’m on a personal mission to bootstrap it to the next level.

Just like the times table or the shoe laces these things will soon be right with me always. I can’t sit back and have a beer and let by osmosis the newer me soak into me. I have to work at it, and having a low frustration tolerance in this respect will have me coming off second best.

Every time I practice as an MRA in any capacity online or in social circles I am getting closer to the level of doing something with such expertise I am never thinking of it, I just do it.

I never saw that old guy again and not for any dramatic reason either. With all frankness I never wanted to go back to that grocery shop because the short time I had with him was so treasured I shied from the chance of making it anything else. I didn’t want to see him measured less than my memory showed him and I’m happy with that. I’m just saying that he was just a guy who told me something very interesting. And now I’ve told you.

The cover image is under CC-BY-SA 4.0.

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