Monday, April 13, 2015

Not Knowing

I love information.
Living in the "information age" suits me just fine.

I grew up loving to read encyclopedias, and for years, had a fairly extensive collection of dictionaries.
I love trivia games and quizzes.
I enjoy thinking about things and figuring them out.
Add the internet to that, and what a motherlode!

Lately, I have begun to explore the joys of NOT knowing.

I came to this from two different directions at the same time.

One is that constantly having a brain in overdrive was making it very difficult for me to learn physical, rather than intellectual, things.
Too much "thinking about" and not enough "doing."

The other is that I ran up against some things that are not possible to know, and it was causing me fairly significant stress.

Interestingly, as often happens, right when I was in the middle of all that, a gift was given to me, in the form of a friend who "just happened" to mention the value of "not knowing."

This friend told us a story of an experience he had at a monastery in India, where he spent some time several years ago.
He did not give all the details, but I had to wonder if he came to this experience- or it came to him- for much the same reason his story was being shared with me at the time that it was: an attachment to prioritizing "knowing" over "experiencing."

He said that one of the monks there would play a game with him.
He would ask my friend to close his eyes, and hold out his hands. The monk would place some unknown item in his hands, and ask him to share what he felt. Not to "guess what it is," but to treasure the feeling of it, WITHOUT knowing what it was.

I find this exercise both valuable- and charming.
It sounds like a game an adult would play with a child, but typically, in that situation, the goal would be to guess what the item was, and that wasn't what they were doing, at all.

Try it.
Resist the urge to know what it is.
Resist that as the defining value of the thing.
Accept, and enjoy, the feeling of not knowing. How often does that happen in your life, a situation where you really, literally, do not know something?
How does that usually make you feel?

I find that this simple exercise, a method of bringing my focus into the moment, of feeling rather than thinking, of experiencing rather than firing up the "brain machine," that million-mile-a-minute thing that sometimes keeps me awake at night, to be both pleasant in and of itself, and useful, in helping me to approach more things in my life as simply what they are, rather than my over-analysis of what I think they might be.

There are some things that are not knowable.
Most of them, maybe.
And that's okay.

I still love learning, finding out, thinking about, figuring out, answering questions, gathering bits of obscure knowledge, and otherwise playing with knowing.

I love not knowing, too.

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