You can not appreciate what you do not understand

People often say, “I don’t know what people see in this,” thinking they are naive. But what if the answer is right there, in the first clause, “I don’t know”?

When you see a sports car or motorcycle and say it is entirely impractical, uncomfortable, expensive, dangerous, and loud. It’s a sign you don’t understand it. You don’t understand the challenges engineers faced when building such a powerful vehicle. You can’t appreciate the ingenuity of designers who achieved such a superb design. You can not empathise with the feelings it evokes in the driver. The driving experience is as hard to explain as describing sex to a virgin.

When you read a book that is widely agreed as a masterpiece, and you say it’s crap, then with high probability, you don’t understand it. You do not understand the spirit of the culture and the historical period in which the author lived. You have missed the author’s feelings, hopes, and ideas. There are straightforward books and complex books, this may be the complex one. It may require a lot of knowledge and openness to appreciate it metaphorically. But it is not crap.

When you travel to Egipt, stand at the bottom of pyramids, and say, “I don’t know why people are so amazed by this bunch of stones,” then you don’t understand the context in which these stones were assembled. Building one pyramid involved: two million stone blocks, one hundred thousand workers, and twenty years of work. Five thousand years ago. It is marvellous where did they get these stones from; there is no stone pit in Cario. How did they transport them, organized the constructions, raised eighty tonnes of stone blocks at a high of 140m, and managed such a massive number of people without phones and walkie-talkies? Then, why did they use that workforce to build a tomb, not towns, ships, and conquer lands? Stupid or maybe farsighted?

If you are a beginner programmer and join some big project, you may think, “What a mess; why have they complicated everything so much?”. It is likely that it’s not a mess but enterprise-grade software, which you need to reason upon from a very abstract point of view. You need to see design patterns like you see the simple for-each loop. Only then you can understand it thoroughly and appreciate the beauty of the machinery as a whole. It’s not a mess; the pieces you look at are the implementation of thoughtful design.

Next time you say, “I don’t know what people see in this,” think about it again, this time with a different attitude, look at it as something extraordinary, try to understand, try to appreciate. With this new attitude, you will be learning something new whatever you do, whomever you meet, wherever you go. It will save you a lot of frustration, misunderstanding, and conflicts with people of different lifestyles.

By appreciating more, you can experience the world with higher intensity. Everything and everyone becomes interesting, fascinating, and stimulating. It will become your new healthy stimulant.

The best way to appreciate something is by learning about it. Learn about people to empathize with them. Learn cultures to be above them. Learn about places to appreciate them. Practice until you find a challenge in doing it well. Try painting, playing music, writing, programming, fishing, dancing, working out, meditating, winter swimming, public speaking, etc. Practice until you understand “what people see in this”.

Areas in which I recognize the inability to appreciate are poems, classical music, paintings, cultures, architecture, athletic sports, cooking, and dancing.

What can you appreciate? What can’t you appreciate?