Partly cloudy with a chance of knowing

 

I know I walk around in a cloud of unknowing.
But somehow I also know most of the time,
 that I am right about everything.
I am even right when I say
I am wrong about everything.
I am even wrong when I say
that everything is a little cloudy. 

Tom Lutz

I love the mystery of the clouds, the dynamic shapes and forms. A never-ending Rorschach test that conjures memories and thoughts. The changing dimensions, the movements, that gives us meaning. In a moment we think we see something, perhaps feel something, even know something, as the clouds morph and we can miss what they have become.

It seems like it is always partly cloudy with a chance of knowing.  

When you place yourself at the center of the universe, you determine what you see and know. All things revolve around you. The world is so full. It is the opposite of empty. It is full of you. There is little room for reality and what is happening without you. You are just defining the clouds around you.  

Unknowing is not an educational process of learning and unlearning. This is a complete overhaul of what you see and experience.

Unknowing is the emptiness that allows us to be filled back up with new truths.

Emptiness is the removal of the self, all the filters and noise that hinders our perception and appreciation of reality.

Unknowing is a form of awakening that liberates the mind from the ego into emptiness.

If you could fold a piece a piece of paper in half 50 times, how tall would it be? To the moon and back. I know. I have done the math dozens of times. The power of compounding.

8 cups of water a day—My doctor admonishes me to drink less water because of the way my intestines are built. Sip and drink hot liquids not cold. 

Each time a “fact” explodes our assumptions into fictional shards, you have to be willing to pack your bags and travel deeper into the darkness of your ignorance. Most facts are part of a network of other facts that are dependent on one another.

Not to make you feel stupid. But to free you from the limits of knowing.

Franz Kafka’s famous quote about books and I think unknowing: ….an axe to break the frozen sea within us.

My wife has told many people that her job is to keep me grounded and humble. And man, she does a good job. 😊

She likes to tell a true story from our courtship, many decades ago. I was blabbering on with great enthusiasm, as I am prone to do, about something “very important” and she turned to me and asked, “How do you know that’s true?” And I responded, “I am speaking, aren’t I?” Of course, it was meant sarcastically, but was it?

We apply meaning and words and thoughts to things that are only validated by ourselves. In our little kingdom of knowledge, we rule the world. Things are simple. As king, we meet people and judge them in an instant. We make huge assumptions about their capabilities or in-capabilities. We make enormous mistakes without knowing what we are doing.

It is so easy to be a know-it-all. To be in a room of dimwits and endure their drivel and wasted efforts at understanding something.

But this is the frozen sea within us, that enable our egos to ice skate on the superficial surface of the incalculable depths of the unknown.

So yeah, we all like learning and maybe unlearning, but unknowing is at a different level.

Not just learning something new, but blowing open a part of your brain that you thought was sacred.

Unknowing can require an axe or a stick of dynamite or a jackhammer to pulverize the cement of certainty.

When you awaken to a new systemic thought. A moral value that crosses all facets of your world. For example, if you realize that “increasing shareholder value” can’t be the primary goal. Or if you conclude that “meritocracy” is dead. Or you come to grips with your own racism and realize everyone is a racist.

My reckoning with my parents assimilation after being incarcerated during WWII. To love a country that did not love them back. To name me John and to raise me to be white. I have no ill feelings toward my parents and their generation, only gratitude. But I am in a process to of unknowing what I think I knew about myself.

I have realized we can only improve our questions.

Our education may advance our work and our glibness at cocktail parties, but what we “know” drives our moral behavior.

So what we know is the guide to where we go.

It forms our moral compass: what is right and wrong. And can become this binary, the simplification of things, which solidify into strident stereotypes, assaulting assumptions and black hole blindspots.

The research about people who have gone into cults and been with organizations that have manipulated their minds reveals so much about unknowing. People willingly joined these organizations having complete confidence, no doubts that their beliefs were aligned with the beliefs of the organization, that the values were unquestioned and the confirmation by the people they trusted was unequivocal. And yet when they were released from that environment, that intense environment of crazy peer pressure and could see and repair their vulnerability, they are de-programmed into a new state of unknowing. 

I remember when one of my relatives had to be deprogrammed and we sat with him through many, many months until he was freed. The things that he believed in and that he knew were true, through great effort, evaporated into fraudulent and fictional beliefs.

There’s always another side to the story, that’s what I always tell myself when I hear anything that sounds true that I want to believe or that even sounds crazy.  I have to fight off the immediate desire to reject what does not neatly fit into what I know. There’s always another side to the “truth”, to what is known, what we really believe in our hearts, or what we just learned a few minutes ago.

What we know becomes part of our belief architecture and drives our behavior. It defines who we are.

It is important that we understand the difference between the literal and the metaphorical, that we really understand the difference between what we think and what is real. In our rush to judgment armed with the “knowledge” we have acquired, we instantly fill in the gaps of what we don’t know and convert real things into our own comfortable abstractions.

I can easily see what should be or what I hope to be, but that is never what is. That feeling, that instinct that I am right almost all of the time is more often wrong. The strength of my confirmation bias, impatience, stubbornness, all empower my ego to avoid the awkwardness and time of not knowing.

So unknowing, iis the deepest and most fulfilling dive into the self. To be emptied to understand what we don’t know.

It is always cloudy. And I am pretty sure that the clouds are changing.

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