Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Knowing Stuff

I'm always enthusiastic when I hear or imagine what seems like a new thought, or an interesting variation on an old thought.  While few, if any, ideas are really "new under the sun," it's a relief that new things seem to enter my awareness every day - otherwise, what a boring life it would be...

Once a new thought starts rolling about upstairs, or wherever thoughts "roll about," I generally explore the notion by speaking about it with others.  I enjoy examining the idea, collecting more information, and deciding what to add, change, or delete.  Here's the fundamental problem - when I get very excited about a new idea and speak about it at any length, I begin to slip into the absurd place of believing that I actually know something new, and I have the final word... My close friends and I call this "speaking out of our butts..."  It's comforting to consider that I'm not alone in this tendency to believe I actually know anything of great importance - it seems to be a very common human practice.  Can you imagine what our world would be like if, suddenly, we all realized that no one really knew anything?  Since our entire civilization seems to be predicated upon a foundation of "knowing stuff," I suspect things would get a lot worse before, or even if, they were ever to improve.  There would be lots of amends to make, and many folks would probably be stumbling about with their tails tucked between their legs thinking "I swear I knew what I was doing..." (perhaps there'd be a tiny bit of drool hanging from their gaping mouths as well).

Here's something else about these zombies who know things - it seems that the most damage, throughout human history, has been caused by the zombies who thought they knew the most.  Perhaps more constructive contributions have been made by those who've been passionate about wondering and asking questions; maybe there is something more humble, real, and powerful about not being so sure about things...

It seems as though people who "know" the most are more likely to pound their fists and make a scene when others don't agree with them.  The more "certain" they are, the more intolerable it is for them to accept others who are still not so sure... Those of us who are confused, and still wondering, are a direct threat to the "knowers," though I think the threat is usually only perceived by them unconsciously.  When the "knowers" really know stuff, they sometimes start to seem a little crazy, and then the rest of us, the quiet masses, instinctively begin to steer clear - we start giving "wide berth" to people who are shouting at us.        

  So, it seems like for every one person shouting, like most of our politicians, religious fanatics, and bullies, countless masses have to find another way to walk to school.  I'm reminded of a funny expression about what to do when accosted by religious loonies - "Don't get 'em riled up, and back away slowly..."

Remarkably, these "knowers," who are doing the most damage, are taking up the most space as well;  these people are running the show for the rest of us, the operative word being "show."  What to do about this?  I don't know - I'm simply noticing and wondering.  What if noticing and wondering were really enough?  Just wondering...

Sometimes, when I notice that I'm turning into one of these all-knowing zombies myself, I'm eager to splash cold water in my face and get back to the reality of my ignorance..what a relief.  Try believing in yourself sometime, take a leap of faith, and allow yourself to not know something - it can be very liberating, and I've heard that it can lower anxiety...  One of the most obvious indicators of my routine slips into the mental oblivion of "knowing stuff"  is when I start getting my new ideas shaped into well-rehearsed spoken segments.  When I'm able to perform my little "pieces" for others and elicit external validation for how clever and "deep" I am, my grandiosity has taken over, and valuing my limitless ignorance is momentarily beyond reach.

A wise friend told me that if I'm not totally confused about pretty much everything, I really have no idea what's going on...

David Lader -  September 4, 2013
David Lader

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