Philosophy Tuesday

January 20, 2015

This is a philosophical statement. It is intended to spark thinking and examining.

There is, as it turns out, a difference between understanding something, or getting something. Or, to use the geek term, a difference between understanding something, and grokking it.

A classic example is the difference between understanding how to ride a bike, and riding a bike. If you’d never ridden a bike before, and got instruction, you could learn what to “do” (pedal, move handlebars), the physics behind it (gyroscopic actions), famous cyclists, the history of the bicycle, and more. And you’d get on the bike, go four feet, and pitch right over.

Fortunately, we learned how to ride a bike without actually understanding all that (and at most information we probably received is the pedal, move handlebars bit), and that understanding was irrelevant. For there came a time when, all of a sudden we got balance on a bike, we developed a powerful automatic sense of it, and off we rode. Once we got it, it was ours forever, to be called on at any time, without having to think about it, apply it, or worry about it. (This is even more true of walking – most of us didn’t even have language yet!)

When it comes to ontological philosophy, and the study of the being part of human being, the same is true. Understanding is, unfortunately, the booby prize. We can know, understand, test on, recite, like, and even profess our desire to act by the precepts of a particular philosophical tradition, or proverb, or foundation, and it will change our life not a wit.  For a knowledge hound and an understander like me, this… is/was a bit of a problem.  All my knowledge of Buddhism in university didn’t alter anything for me in my life, and as I began my ontological journey it was very slow going at first as I thought and over-thought things, understanding them perfectly yet with no impact.

But by delving deep into it, examining our life, trying it on, taking it on, and experiencing the philosophy – and here is where guidance and a teacher is very useful (and was absolutely critical for me) – there comes a moment of insight when we can grok it. Through the practice there comes that moment.  Our views and our experience of life alters, and new possibilities for our life opens up.

We can get on that bike and ride.


  1. *thumbs up*

  2. […] up on an earlier post… Transformation happens when we get/grok something that shifts (transforms) who we are being […]

  3. […] is to give an explanation, isn’t it?!!? We think, or at least we cloak it in, that by “understanding” what we did, through explanation, it will help us avoid it in the future. But all we can do […]

  4. […] And, here’s the crux, not everyone has had the fortune of the experiences, information, and reinforcement that it takes to learn something.  To become aware of something.  To synthesize the myriad of different threads into a rich tapestry of knowledge and understanding.  And going beyond understanding into the realm of groking it. […]

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