Socrates famously said, “I know that I am intelligent, because I know that I know nothing.” And, he won every debate. Fascinating. How could a confession of ignorance translate into intellectual supremacy? Let’s think this through.
Think about experts with strong opinions. They know they are right. That investment creates bias and determines what they do and do not see. Pride in their knowledge predisposes them to blindness - relative to anything that might challenge their convictions. So, they “see through a glass darkly,” as is so poetically described in a well known Biblical passage. It’s more like a lens with blotches on it that obscures the total picture of reality.
Quite another matter is what’s being ignored entirely by those whose primary claim to fame is being overly impressed with their own brilliance. In my recent book I used the term “Source Intelligence” to describe what orchestrates the universe. This force, and the wisdom inherent in it, is available to us all. In fact, it’s already operative in all of us… what else do you think is beating your heart and regenerating your cells? There’s no battery. We’re not plugged in. Or, maybe we are.
Of course, unconscious processes proceed without our conscious consent. It’s wherever we have a conscious say that things get tricky. We may agree that Source Intelligence can maintain life in our physical bodies and keep the planets from colliding, but could we really trust it to manage the details of our day-to-day lives? Sounds risky!
For any readers offended by how that’s put, I invite you to consider this question: “How seriously do you take yourself and life?” Experts tend to be very serious, weighted down with the gravity of their knowledge. This recalls the story of a gentleman clutching a heavy bar of gold as he sunk in a swimming pool, refusing to release his grasp on something so valuable, even though it meant drowning.
I’m sure we’d take the gold as long as it didn’t come with a swimming pool! But how about acknowledging the gold we're already swimming in? Gold nuggets live in gravel, after all. Old time miners panned through the gravel to find the gold. What an instructive metaphor for living. Sure, there’s lots of gravel. But, there’s gold as well. What are we looking for? How do we see our lives, day to day? Experts analyze the gravel and tell you in detail why it’s not gold. Meanwhile, the miner keeps panning.
Here’s an irrefutable fact: you are here. Regardless of where you would prefer to be, who you might prefer to be, and what you would prefer to have or not have, this is it. This is the truth of your life. I don’t mean in a general sense, I mean right now. You are reading! You are sitting somewhere, reading these words. And, in the back of your mind, the complex of memories about your life haunt you, complete with everything that needs changing, or so you believe, and your beliefs about how that can best happen or not.
How do these challenges sit with you? Do they encourage you to identify as a victim, or do you see them as heroic opportunities? It’s entirely your choice. The truth is what is. It’s more than what you believe, different than the blotches on the lens you see the world through. The truth is simply the way things are, right where you are. And, as Gertrude Stein once said, "The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off." All right! On with the show!
You are here, now. This is the truth of your life. The question is, what are you going to do about it? What Socrates championed was discovery. He was proud to say: “I know that I am intelligent, because I know that I know nothing.” Similarly, we can embrace our ignorance about what to do next. Presumably, you’ll keep reading! Or not. We find out in life, moment by moment. And that’s the joy and challenge of it, the discovery of the novelty of the moment, now, now and now, not only as something to observe but as actions to take.
Science fiction author Ray Bradbury famously said, “If we listened to our intellect, we'd never have a love affair. We'd never have a friendship. We'd never go into business, because we'd be cynical. Well, that's nonsense. You've got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.”
That expert is your mind, telling you to live according to what you know. But what you know is not enough to carry you forward, unless you’re content with a boring repetition of the life you’ve already lived. It’s a new day, isn’t it? Aren’t there new experiences to be known, new challenges to face: dragons and IRS auditors and learning to kiss better, and a sore back? Let the miracles begin, because we join Socrates (now, that’s illustrious company!) and live from the same place of innocent unknowing.
Imagine what we’ll discover, without every leaving this moment!