During my perfectly wonderful Christmas break, the phrase at the head of this post has been slightly on my mind, as someone on FaceBook asked me that shortly before I went away. I didn’t know something that the questioner felt everybody should surely know.
Two images arose to help me express what I was thinking and feeling about this, and about how wrong we are to assume that we all know what each other knows, or that people who don’t know what we know are somehow lacking. The first is that British Gas TV ad with peoples’ homes described and pictured as their ‘worlds’ – each family lives on a tiny planet just big enough for one house. The other image has to be the Venn diagram, which even my non-mathematical mind recalls as a series of overlapping circles denoting areas of commonality between individuals, groups, ideas, just about anything. This latter seems the better of the two to me, as it expresses the importance of sharing. The circle is an enclosing and protecting shape, but not necessarily exclusivist or solipsistic.
The answer to that original query, at its most basic, has to be;
- I live on the same planet as you, but the two of us know different things about it. Some we both know, some only one or the other of us knows, and some neither of us knows.
In fact my rather flippant response when the question was put to me was ‘Skorn.’ I do spend a lot of time there considering it’s imaginary, but as one of the people who imagined it, I rather need to. However, that makes me guilty of assuming that ‘everyone knows’ what ‘the planet Skorn’ is.
If we are going to use the metaphor of planets to signify ‘areas of interest’ one of the important things is to remember that we all flit from planet to planet in the course of each day. In Staffordshire on my way North this month, I was invited onto the planet of one of the country’s most expert historians and modellers of buses. I would not seek to live there, but my learning and sharing time there was immense. Each of our friends, however close, travels daily across the faces of planets unknown to us, and where we would do well to sojourn for them for a time, now and then. It’s not about sharing only with people who live in the exact same planetary system as yourself. Take a rocket-trip now and then, and see the sea, the sky and the stars through other people’s eyes.