Know what can be known

Lately, I’ve been laboring to understand things that are too high for me, carrying out an exercise in futility. I hope you cannot relate; I hope you never know the disappointment of discerning your limits. The feeling of misery and shame is nearly unbearable. It continually removes me from my peace. Sometimes the feeling manifests itself as sickness; I’m plagued by headaches, nausea, and shivers. It is the beginning of hell.

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If it sounds like I am lying or theatrically exaggerating, it’s because I am. Drama has deathless appeal. This and idleness explains the paragraph above. Forgive my childish digression.

What I’d really love to blog about is ignorance and what it can be made to reveal about the human condition. Much of what I have to say may sound intuitive, but I assure you being resigned in ignorance is a difficult task, the mastery of which will make us better communicators and more emotionally poised.

Recall your last unnecessary argument. I imagine it left you feeling bitter and paltry. You were made to know the anger of having your logic denied, and the misery of fruitless chatter. You watched passively as your temper escaped control, and in a perverse way, you liked it. Then, in silence you relived the scene, pausing, fast-forwarding, and rewinding as it suffices. But regrettably, quiet reflection has a way of making you lose faith in what was apparent and certain, that is its modus operandi.  Eventually you became touched by doubt; your argument became fallible, your motives for arguing questionable. Furthermore, you began to lose confidence in your self, as you realized you’re not as in control of those illusive emotions as you thought. Your perceptions have been weighed and found wanting. This makes you irritable.

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I knew a man that constantly lived as described above. Full of false pride, he believed that truth was whatever he thought it was. He required no validation from experience or wise men. Confidence and strength were what he displayed in public, but he was only pretending. Anyone who bothered to look more than superficially saw that his was a world of insecurities. He was a collection of doubt, but at least he knew it; he’d deceive you, but not himself.

 

Desperate to be free of his covert shackles, he started to read the writings of sages. Laboring in the world of spirit, he gradually moved towards maturity. Progress was slow, but at least there was movement. The scales were coming off one at a time. Finally he saw something, he could make out a real figure, not just shadows as he did the entirety of his life. What he saw was not as important as the fact that he was starting to see. This was the beginning of contemplation, true contemplation. He was thinking without categories, the categories that had blinded him all his life, the categories that were given to him by society – he never chose them, they were just given to him. Before his eyes, this surreal existence started to give way to reality.

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His hearing improved too, because he heard the call to become afriend of ambiguities. He responded affirmatively; he was now living in paradox. He now understood that most knowledge was of the form If-then; eo ipso, he knew that he knew almost nothing, and by virtue of being resigned in his ignorance, he was wiser than most. His knew found wisdom carried with it a certain calm and feeling of well-being. It was as if he was born again.

I think going further would be pointless. The message should be received by now. Nevertheless, I’ll spell it out. The message is this: knowing the difference between what you can and can’t know is the beginning of happiness.

by Mark Hutchinson // featuring Photography by  Mayuri Paranthahan 

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