We are, you could say, a species of know-it-alls. Not just know-it-alls, but the worst kind of know-it-alls.
We are the know-it-alls that are sometimes right.
Even when we don’t know, we think we know. We just plain hate to not know. In fact, there is such a stigma attached to not knowing that it permeates every facet of our lives. Think about it:
In school, the teacher asks a difficult question, and no one raises their hand. Remember this? Remember being the student sweating in fear that you will be called upon. Even if you thought you knew the answer, being called upon was still overwhelmingly frightening. What if I am not right? What if the terrible horrible devastatingly embarrassing truth that I DON’T KNOW is revealed for all to see!
How does it feel to be called “ignorant”? Feels kinda nasty. Like there is something in this word that is insulting to your character. Most people equate “ignorant” with “stupid” and the words are used interchangeably. Yet, the definition of “ignorant” is simply:
Ignorant. (adj): Lacking knowledge or information as to a particular subject or fact.
It simply means not knowing.
We have such a deep dysfunctional relationship with not knowing that we do everything in our power to avoid admitting it, even to ourselves.
We simply do not know what the next moment will bring, and this is unacceptable to our conditioned mind, which then creates a scenario and imagines that it knows, and the result of this is expectation.
Expectation is a symptom of our internal avoidance of the reality of not knowing, and creates what could be called the root of suffering: the gap between what we think should be happening (could happen, should happen, will happen) and what actually is happening.
How does this work out for us?
Things simply happen, despite what we expect. We cannot know. No matter how much we rely on our conceptual learning, our thoughts, to shield us from the dangerous territory of the unknown, we end up in that dreaded landscape.
Yet, the unknown is the ground of all knowing!
There can never be anything known without there first being not-knowing!
See how ridiculous this is? How delusional? We have a negative perspective, a dysfunctional relationship, with the natural, inevitable, completely necessary fundamental building block of all knowing!
And herein lies the paradox, at least when it comes to spirituality:
This extreme discomfort with not-knowing fuels our motivation to learn and experience.
We turn our learned ideas and concepts into a cocktail of belief and faith. This conceptual cocktail becomes who we think we are and how we see the world and our place in it, and we then must expend enormous amounts of energy defending, reinforcing it, and holding onto it.
We take stories told to us and things we have read to have meaning, and assign that meaning to our own experience, diluting what is happening in the present moment, to our interpretation of what is happening.
We mistake what we think we know for who we are.
And of course, what we think we know is different than what someone else thinks they know, and there must be a right and a wrong, and usually it is them that are wrong. And if our concepts that we have mistaken for “ourselves” are questioned, or spoken against, we must defend them, as we are engaged here in the literal act of self-survival.
Even if it is “right for me” or “wrong for me”, it is still a duality.
So we think the more we learn, the more we memorize, the more we understand, the closer and closer we will get to the Truth, to God, Peace, Oneness, in whatever name or form you chose to call it.
Yet the fact is, the Truth cannot be known.
Can you consider that everything you have learned must be questioned relentlessly and discarded? Can you consider that the point of questions is not answers, but instead, more questions, leading to more questions, until the questioning is exhausted. Until it is seen that all questions and all answers are meaningless?
What is it like to let go of all conceptualizations, all viewpoints, all ideas? Is it possible to relax into the miraculous free fall of not-knowing?
In this classic clip, Lou isn’t pissed because Bud is fucking with him. Bud is serious. Lou is agonizingly frustrated because he doesn’t know no matter how much he learns!
Seem familiar? Kinda like stumbling around, looking for your own eyeballs.