What if you abandoned everything you thought you knew, relinquished your beliefs, and became more acquainted with not-knowing? It’s not a commonly expressed idea, but every time I hear it, it stands out, offering an enticing alternative to our conditioned way of life. It’s a sanctuary, but we treat it like a taboo because from a very early age we fear being mocked or punished or disadvantaged if we don’t know.
Yet, the more you think about it, the more attractive it becomes. We are already well-acquainted with the power and allure of knowing: the feeling of being right, or of possessing information others do not. It provides satisfaction, authority, control, and certainty. But are we ever in control? Can we ever be certain? Knowing (or assuming we know) shuts us off from abundance. It limits our outlook and causes our world to contract.
Not-knowing, on the other hand, expands our world, emphasising our connection with all of life as we re-open ourselves to all possibilities. It invites release and volunteers humility. It allows us to experience again our childish wonder from a time when all we wanted was to play and explore. It even allows us to see how conditioned we are by our unconscious habits, thereby creating the opportunity for rebirth.
So what’s stopping us from going there right now? Two things, really: a lack of awareness and an abundance of conceit. We’re unaware of how acutely we think we know; and we hang on too tightly to our thoughts, beliefs and opinions. I picked up my book this morning and opened it at a random page (p.357). The entry, ‘Live In The Real World‘, from 18 years ago, offered the following lines:
I became annoyed at my naivety. I see it as causing my resentment because I seem unable to understand or deal with people and how they act. I have no clue how this world works, and that’s why I get resentful and angry.
I talked to Karaj about all of this. My resentment is not connected to my naivety at all. The resentment is caused by the real world not conforming to my own view of how things should be and this is caused by me living in a fantasy world. My naivety is a positive thing and it leads to curiosity about the world. The combination of naivety and curiosity is very powerful.
In those two paragraphs lie the pain of knowing (and wanting to know), and the beauty of not knowing. I thought I knew how the world should be. The realisation that it isn’t that way, and my continued lack of acceptance, gave rise to annoyance and resentment.
This is not about knowing or understanding, it’s about seeing and experiencing the world as it is. It’s about trusting the vastness of life and being at peace with everything, without necessarily wishing to change anything. From that place we are far more open, and our actions are far more likely to have a positive effect on the world. All of which arises naturally from naivety and curiosity.
Here is a quote from Terry Pratchett, which appeared on my timeline this morning and sums this post up beautifully:
‘The presence of those seeking the truth is infinitely to be preferred to the presence of those who think they’ve found it.’
The current situation, with so much of the world on hold, offers us the chance to step into the space of not-knowing and seek the truth from there; to test the water by reflecting on what we thought we knew and questioning its origins, its validity, and its immutability.
This is the time to return to the inquisitiveness of our childhood and ask fundamental questions of ourselves and each other. If the slate were wiped clean, for example, would we do things differently? The answer must surely be ‘Yes’, but at the very least, each of us can take a deep breath, pause for a moment, and step lovingly and confidently into the richness of ‘I don’t know’. From that powerful place of potential and humility, we will walk a better path.