Not to understand

“I do not understand. That phrase is so overwhelming that it transcends any understanding. Our understanding is always limited. But not to understand can be without frontiers. I feel myself much more complete when I do not understand. Not to understand, in the sense I mean, is a gift. I am not referring to the simple-minded. The desirable thing is to be intelligent and not to understand. It is a strange blessing, like experiencing madness without being insane. It is quiet indiferrence, an idiotic gentleness. Apart from the occasional moment of disquiet : I should like to understand a little. Not too much : but at least to understand that I do not understand.”
Clarice Lispector, Discovering the World (Manchester : Carcanet 1992), p.227.


  1. Does not the act of writing/thinking about “not understanding” call into question the claim made here of not wanting to understand?
    How far do the pleasures of not understanding go before these same pleasures create pain?
    The writer should take up religion, the land of permanent not understanding.

    • Is there not more pain attached to trying to understand what is beyond our reach or relentlessly trying to paste an understandable construction on, say, nature, life, the universe ? Isn’t life itself amongst humans or not “the land of permanent not understanding” ?

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