The Ominous Battle of Content vs Context
A Datin was panicking at Don Muang Airport check-in counter because her name on the ticket is different from her passport. This is because ‘Datin’ is written before her name on the ticket. Earlier, she has no problem passing the Malaysian check-in process because Malaysian at KLIA understood that well.
The Datin thought her title is above everything else. She proudly writes ‘Datin‘ while purchasing her ticket. In her perspective, her husband has been working hard to be conferred with ‘Datuk‘-ship. They are high society and beyond normal people. In all occasions where her environment is, she was greeted as ‘Datin‘, not her name.
We, Malaysian, are fascinated with the titles. But many did not realise the title is not part of a person’s name. Whatever that a person puts in his name card is not in his official identity document, IC or passport. Their official name or the name on the passport is based on their birth certificates, which of course, does not have the title they have been a proud owner of.
I am in no position to question the qualification or eligibility of becoming one. However, there is one interesting element to look at, which is our content vs contexts.
‘Content‘ is our knowledge, while ‘context‘ is to whom, when and where we apply the knowledge. I shall leave international aviation regulations to another day but the Datin has definitely applied her knowledge at the wrong place to the wrong person. There is a high possibility that she thought her entitlement applies to whomever, whenever and wherever.
In this case, her context is limiting her to understand her new environment. Or simply, her context is full.
Is this a problem? Well, to answer the question, it is probably not a problem if you are enjoying the last day of your life. Otherwise, it is a big problem.
If you are reading, this you are most probably a homo sapien. Homo sapien or human has one of the biggest brain-to-body ratios among all species on Earth. Ever since the cognitive revolution 70,000 years ago, human changes the surface of the Earth! Something that even crocodile was not able to do for 200 million years.
And, there is no sign of stopping for what human can do to the Earth or even the universe.
Learning new things is not always an enjoyable experience. At a very young age, we have been forced to learn things we probably have no idea why. We learn how to heal after a breakup, we learn how to manage our financial after the near-bankruptcy experience and we sometimes associate the process of learning to pain. Like the night before the exam.
The ‘datin‘ is no crocodile. Her cognitive capabilities may be on the same level as Oprah Winfrey. But she probably stopped learning after the husband was conferred with ‘Datuk‘ship. She probably thought she knew enough; enough to enjoy her life without having to go through the painful learning experience again. However, I am not surprised that after her Bangkok experience, she may be running for the UN presidency.
At 93, Tun Mahathir taught us that we can still start a new career, a very big one. It creates a huge new context for us all. Of course, not everyone has the aspiration of becoming the next Prime Minister. We certainly are going to face new challenges in our career or in life nonetheless.
Let’s say our knowledge or content is the teh tarik and our brain or context is the glass. If we already have a glass full of teh tarik, we can’t fill in more teh tarik. To be a Prime Minister, we need very big glass, probably as deep and as large as Lake Baikal in Siberia.
I personally believe that what limits our capability to learn is our self-esteem. The lack of confidence from our self-esteem limits our desire to learn and to adapt to new things. On the other hand, the ego conjured from self-righteousness is preventing us from wanting to know more. Therefore, we stop looking for new contents and contexts.
Successful companies can’t expect a fresh graduate to have the knowledge of a fifty-year-old executive. They would have to carefully validate what degree holders should know at their age and further explore their potentials to the benefit of both parties.
Someone may argue that since there is rarely a pointer to tell us what we don’t know, where do we start?
I will offer to start by looking at the medium you are using to read this article. What’s the history of this medium, is it still going to be here in three years? How long is it going to take for AI to replace all columnists?
In short, have some curiosity. Be curious about the world around us. Start picking up bit by bit. Quoting Albert Einstein’s famous quote, “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious”. With this curiosity, he first discovered the theory of relativity and eventually built the first atomic bomb that changes the history of mankind forever.
Curiosity starts with having an open mind; by believing that there is content behind the current context that we understand. Stop making assumptions and stop making conclusions. If you are a lazy kind like me, go pick up a book and start enjoying a new dimension or new context that the author is telling you.