May 18, 2010

The Arrogance of Not Knowing

At a certain point in your inquiry practice, you will undoubtedly come to recognize the arrogance behind the words "I know." However, the opposite stance can be just as arrogant: "I can't know anything! (And its mostly unspoken implication, "Therefore you can't know anything either.")

In this way, "I don't know" becomes as much of a religion as "I know." This is pure dogma and has little if anything to do with the process of inquiry or any real understanding that comes of it.

There can be great freedom in realizing that there isn't too much we can know for sure, particularly when it comes to stressful, limiting assumptions we have made all of our lives. It's when we want to impose I-Don't-Knowism on the rest of the world that it becomes yet another prison...and a very oppressive one at that.

Proselytizers from The Holy Church of I-Don't-Know may come across in the following ways—but only for our highest good, of course. Is this you? (It's been me at times, for sure!):

1. Facilitating others when they haven't asked for it.

Human Being with Human Reactions: I have a headache.

Devotee of I-Don't-Knowism: Is that true?

Human Being: Yes, it's true. My head is pounding. I shouldn't have had beer and pizza last night.

Devotee: Oh really? "You shouldn't have had beer and pizza." I would soooo question that. Does that belief bring peace or stress into your life?

2. Nondual One-upmanship.

Human Being: Wow, I just heard on the news that 108,000,000 people died in Squatslavia today when a 12.0 earthquake, a tsunami, and wildfires demolished the entire country.

Devotee: I don't see a problem. Could it be that this is for their highest good? I can't know what's best for the Squatslavians. Or for the world. Or even for myself. How do I know the world is supposed to self-destruct? It's self-destructing; that's reality.

3. Being non-committal in the name of enlightenment.

Human Being: Will you marry me?

Devotee: In this moment it's a "yes," and "mind" might change itself. I love you with all my heart, and I can't know how I'm going to feel five minutes from now, and either way, it's not personal. So it would be out of my integrity to say yes. Or no.

Human Being: Well, I don't know what to do now. Do we make plans for our wedding, or what?

Devotee: (Insert favorite Ramana Maharshi-ish or Nisargadatta-esque "we are not the doers" statement here.)

If you think I am exaggerating, you haven't hung out on social media recently. Sometimes people are sort-of kidding (you can tell if they put a little smiley face next to what they wrote) but often this is in all seriousness. Not surprisingly, the "conversion" rate is not terrifically high and no wonder; there's no meeting people where they are in this kind of "communication."

At the end of her workshops, Byron Katie often says, "Want to alienate your friends and family? Talk to them like this: [Putting on an obnoxious voice:] 'Is that truuuue? Turn it aroooouuuund!'"

This always gets a big laugh, Then darned if many of us don't go home and do it! (Been there, done that, and I apologize! Ugh!!!)

In contrast, those who live out of their realizations and don't teach/preach frequently are asked by those who knew them "when," "You seem terrific, what are you doing these days? Did you fall in love or something?"

If you can answer that with a simple "yes" or "no," then sign me up.

©2010 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.


ruess said...

Eventually the self catches on to the work, seeing the freedom it offers and the power it bestows, and begins to manipulate it for its means. This is apart of the process though, and if there is genuine sincerity underneath, that will eventually come through.

Fabrice said...

I think you left out the last response in the 3 interactions above:

Human Being: F*** you!



Kathy said...

Great article - that helps a lot. I have found myself saying - well, that is just the way it is - over and over.