CHAPTER 2: The Myth of Knowing
“You beg me to come closer to the heart of our subject. What is our subject if not the grievous effect of knowledge.”
“There had been a wearing away of his previous knowledge, and as far as words, he only knew them as a person who had once suffered from them- as if he had been cured.”
“History is nothing but a procession of false Absolutes, a series of temples raised to pretexts, a degradation of the mind before the Improbable.”
“…to see…with eyes that have been bathed in emptiness, that have not been hurt with knowledge- to see then is an extraordinary experience.”
We have seen the light, now it is time for us to walk through the darkness. Let us see exactly why it is that life, for most of us, feels less like the living miracle which it is, and more like a troubling complex of inharmonious occurrences.
What happens is that though life begins for most children as a bewildering entry into a magical, mythical, incredible world, the great majority of us get pushed out of the wonders of childhood without ever knowing what has happened; we get ‘schooled’ and mentally trapped early, get caught in pre-fabricated, obtusely delineated lives, and never again awaken to the wonder of our own existences and of this mysterious creation. Instead we spend our days confined in futile acts of triviality which only succeed in hemming us in further. We get lost in a labyrinth of facts, ideas, preconceptions, and societal ‘truths’, and in doing so we forget the fact that life is not a simple event which is easily contained in the boxes the mind requires in order to function within humanity’s prefigured conditions; we forget the miracle, the mystery, and the confounding implausibility of all and everything, including ourselves. And that is a great tragedy.
“Rabbit’s clever,” said Pooh thoughtfully.
“Yes,” said Piglet, “Rabbit’s clever.”
“And he has Brain.”
“Yes,” said Piglet, “Rabbit has Brain.” …
“I suppose,” said Pooh,
“that that’s why he never understands anything.”
There are many lies which hide themselves from us under the guise of assertions, assumptions, and appearances, but really they are all products of the first lie- The Lie, The Big Lie- and that lie is …that we understand.
The indoctrination into the dogma of false certitude begins at birth, accelerates exponentially through the ubiquitous incarceration called school, and is fertilized and fostered by every institution we encounter throughout our lives, from the church, to the media, the marketers, and the family. Rarely is the innocent mind cultivated.
This cognitive corruption is committed unwittingly by nearly every society on earth; from our earliest years we are confined to mental boxes, are force-fed a massive amount of useless information, and then punished if we fail to regurgitate the ‘truths’ as they are told to us. Most of us, in essence, have been brainwashed by learning.
“Men are born ignorant, not stupid;
they are made stupid by education.” Bertrand Russell
And J. Krishnamurti stated: “Living in such a corrupt, stupid society as we do…the competitive education we receive…warps, twists, and dulls our days.”
That is, we are greatly blinded by institutional learning, because we are stuffed to fullness with an indigestible banquet of unreal, or unnecessary, words, facts, and theorems.
One of E.M. Cioran’s caustic volleys against such useless learning runs as follows: “How imagine other people’s lives, when our own seems scarcely conceivable? We meet someone, we see him plunged into an impenetrable and unjustifiable world, in a mass of desires and convictions superimposed on reality like a morbid structure. Having made a system of mistakes for himself, he suffers for reasons whose nullity alarms the mind and surrenders himself to values whose absurdity leaps to the eye. What are his undertakings but trifles, and is the feverish symmetry of his concerns any better built than an architecture of twaddle?”
That is, by learning falsely, we invent false problems, and seek false solutions, then we live falsely, and teach falsity. It is a vicious circle which has no end.
“From the day we went to school we learned nothing; on the contrary, we were made obtuse, we were wrapped in a fog of words and abstractions.” Henry Miller
Recognizing this, Grace Llewellyn- in her tragically little-known book The Teenage Liberation Handbook, which is designed to assist youths in escaping from their pedantic tormentors- quotes an eighth-grade student, who says, “The average second grader is a person slightly smarter than the average third grader, because they’ve had a year less of school.”
This is an absurd statement, and yet it is only absurd to an absurd society that defends its false reality by the tactical method of teaching its delusions to each younger generation, thus perpetuating the mental ossification.
Yes indeed, how truly barbaric it is that during the essential years of curiosity and wonder- when it would be much healthier for our bodies and souls to be outside amongst the wind and the trees, singing, and dancing, and playing about- we are instead corralled foolishly into a holding tank, and there we are injected continually with the bitter medicine of dubious realities.
“So far as concepts are concerned, they are all lies.” Swamiji Shyam
We see now that many different individuals have come to the uncomfortable realization that what we have called learning is not learning at all, and what we have thought was truth is not true all, and what we were told was useful knowledge was nothing more than ‘twaddle’.
The ever recalcitrant, Thomas Carlyle, had even less glowing words for his mentors; in his aggressively rhetorical style, he avowed: “My teachers were hide-bound Pedants, without knowledge of man’s nature, or of boy’s; or of aught save their lexicons and quarterly account books. Innumerable dead Vocables…they crammed into us, and called it fostering the growth of mind. How can an inanimate, mechanical Gerund-grinder, the like of whom will, in a subsequent century, be manufactured at Nurunberg out of wood and leather, foster the growth of anything, much more of the mind, which grows not like a vegetable…but like a spirit, by mysterious contact of Spirit. …[A true] man deals much in the feeling of Wonder; insists on the necessity and high worth of universal Wonder; which he holds to be the only reasonable tempter for the denizen of so singular a Planet as ours. Wonder…is the basis of Worship; The reign of wonder is perennial, indestructible in Man. …[And] science, which is to destroy Wonder, and in its stead substitute Mensuration and Numeration, finds small favour [with us]... Above all, that class of Logic-choppers, and trebble-pipe Scoffers, and professed Enemies of Wonder; who, in these days, so numerously patrol as night-constables about the Mechanic’s Institute of Science, and cackle, like true Old-Roman geese and goslings round their Capitol, on any alarm, or on none; nay, who often, as illumined Sceptics, walk abroad into peaceable society, in full day-light, with rattle and lantern, and insist on guiding you and guarding you therewith, though the Sun is shining… That whole class is inexpressibly wearisome. …[For] the man who cannot wonder, who does not habitually wonder…is but a Pair of Spectacles behind which there is no Eye.”
Put bluntly (as if it has not been put bluntly enough already): knowledge is dishonesty. Our teachers could only make excuses for not understanding anything, and these excuses were what they call ‘knowing’. And then, from this first, gigantic error, there erupted the dogma of learning their ‘truths’, which then continued the irrevocable chain of indoctrination so perniciously administered under the false auspices of ‘learning’. But such learning is a shackle on the freedom of the soul, a cage built around a fledgling bird.
“…your ideas are false, for all ideas are false.”
Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
It is obvious now that to continue stumbling onward in the same infantile direction as our teachers, leaders, and ancestors is to continue bashing our heads against the same walls, and to have not yet learned the one thing made obvious from all our learning- that …learning is useless.
False education is what restricts the mystery, inducing facts. True education is what expands the mystery, educing wonder. But the sad case is that education today rarely educes, and mostly induces; it induces inertia, confusion, stagnation, and futility.
It is our lot to have inherited the lie which our forefathers were neither lucid enough to see, nor strong enough to break away from. We must now simply have the strength and honesty to see ‘what is’ as it is, without the imposition of words, labels, judgements, or theories. We must no longer seek for explanations of the unexplainable, for to ‘explain’, is to explain away the mystery.
To become undulled from our past ‘education’, all we need to do is to wake up to the lie of ‘understanding’, and let life return of its own accord, as it is so inherently wont to do, to its implausible, grandiose, marvelous stature.
E.M. Cioran observes: “…all of life’s evils come from a ‘conception of life’, [for] under each formula lies a corpse…”
Any restriction, any limitation, rule, or order placed upon life, and wonder is gone.
Life with beauty of mystery, then, requires the courage to dis-believe, the strength to not-understand, the fortitude to renounce everything the world believes to be true, and so to stand naked and alone, without a single thought to hold onto.
“If man is to survive, he must never cease wondering.” Sam Keen
One of the hindrances to absolute wonder is the vanity of mind which believes it can understand what is far beyond its capability. And so, the world of ‘learning’ is dangerous because from it we learn largely to know life improperly, and the mind would rather know improperly than not at all.
The blame lies not just on academia, but on the whole infrastructure of particularization and mentalization. Luckily, however, though learning may blind us it cannot destroy the mystery of being. As H. L. Mencken optimistically pointed out: “Penetrating so many secrets, we cease to believe in the unknowable. But there it sits nonetheless, calmly licking its chops.”
It is merely our task to open our eyes again, without any lens between life and ourselves.
As such we must renounce scholarship for exactly the very same reason that it is justified: that is, we must renounce it because through academia and book-learning people are taught to believe that they ‘understand’ things. And yet all this ‘understanding’ does is allow us to misunderstand and misuse our marvelous selves, thus denying us our rightful place in a world of wonder.
Byron lamented: “Sorrow is knowledge: they who know the most/ must mourn the deepest o’er the fatal truth,/ the tree of knowledge is not that of life.”
None of us are free of sorrow, and none of us are innocent, for we have all ‘gone to bed with the devil’ so to speak.
The equation is simple: knowledge equals sorrow. And why is that? Easy enough: because existence is unknowable, and therefore to ‘know’ it is to not know it; that is, to believe that we understand what cannot be understood, is to disfigure it, and therefore to exist in a unreal way, which equals sorrow. ‘Unknowability’ is the essence, the inherent, underlying reality of everything. And so, the more we separate ourselves from what we inherently are- mystery- the more we ‘fall’ away from our highest possibility.
“Deplorable mania, when something happens, to inquire what? Can it be I am the prey of a genuine preoccupation, of a need to know as one might say?” Samuel Becket
I am not here suggesting that we revert to a world community of idle idiots; it is not that we must give up the mind, as such, but only the assumption of ‘understanding’ what we are, what life is, and how we must therefore live it. For true living asks only one thing of us- to live. And we cannot do this in the boxes of mind; neither in the physical, nor in the metaphysical worlds.
“To be full of knowledge breeds endless misery”, admitted J. Krishnamurti.
Facts, words, truths, and propositions: these are the interruptions of the soul’s joy at its own miraculousness, because no explanation of this event, of ‘what is’, no matter how profound or valid, can possibly do justice to the overwhelmingness of life’s occurrence.
‘Idea’ is negligence. Understanding is an entombment- a sepulcher of certitude. ‘Knowing’ buries the knower who ends up not filled with the living spirit, but, instead, embalmed with lifeless understandings. And it is these little understandings which we accumulate that simply prevent us from attaining the Great Non-understanding. ‘Knowledge’ is a stranglehold we are taught to place upon ourselves; by trying to know the unknowable we simply suffocate the true breath of mystery out of life.
“Ghosts wailed at night when the ancients invented word”, decried the Chinese poet Kung Tzu-chen, “A hundred anxieties beset men of later ages who know how to read.”
Knowledge settles heavily upon us, like an oppressive weight built of things and meanings; we say “I understand”, and we die ignorant within that knowing. And the reason for this is that it is not really ‘knowing’.
“Conventional knowledge”, declared Rumi, “is a death to our souls, and it is not really ours.” And his spiritual brother, Kabir, who never valued reading, writing, words, or learning, affirmed: “With the word ‘reason’ you already feel miles away.”
Yes indeed, and not only the word ‘reason’, but also logic, truth, correctness, understanding- the whole lot of these words can be dismissed as failures.
“…life is tolerable only by the degree of mystification we endow it with.” E.M. Cioran
Which is to say, knowledge is alien to our incomprehensible beings, and so, by envisioning ourselves through thought’s limited lenses, we become aliens to ourselves.
“[‘Knowing’]…is an evasion of the courage to be; it prevents the absorption of maximum meaninglessness into oneself”, stated Ernest Becker in his Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Denial of Death. Becker’s thesis is that the greater part of mankind’s woes and sorrows arise from an inability to accept mortality, and so, via various escapes and repressions, he says, we end up living lives of complete fantasy, denial, and absurdity. I would assert, however, that our ills arise not from a denial of death, but …from a denial of life! For what is life but mystery? So to deny mystery is to deny life.
Yet we are so brutally corrupted by a relentless assault of unquestioned, deviously articulate, mediocre nonsense, that it is almost impossible to purge the rot which thickly binds us. ‘Truth’, as we learn it, is epistemological suicide.
“To turn that magnificence out there into reasonableness doesn’t do anything for you. Here, surrounding us, is eternity itself. To engage in reducing it to a manageable nonsense is petty and outright disastrous.” Don Juan
We were not intended to fall into the mundane inertia of our wonderless society, and live our whole lives through, seeing only from the limited vantage points provided by the world of the word. We were not intended to live enveloped by fragile misinterpretations- to cling to the veneer of ‘meaning’; we were intended to release these and apprehend unmeaning. We were intended to witness limitlessness, in ourselves, our fellows, and everything we come upon.
Cioran observed: “In the Mind’s graveyard lie the principles and the formulas: the Beautiful is defined, and interred there. And like it the True, the Good, knowledge, and the Gods- they are all rotting there. …Consider the accent with which a man utters the word ‘truth’, the inflection of assurance or reserve he uses, the expression of believing or doubting it, and you will be edified as to the nature of his opinions and the quality of his mind. No word is emptier…”
“What kills life, is the absence of mystery.” Anais Nin
The libertarian and friend of Anais Nin, Henry Miller, was equally nauseated by the conventional process of thought. He declared: “This is a mania- explaining things. It goes with a certain type of mind which I abhor. And always leaves me with the feeling that nothing is explained, that we are simply eating into a hole. …The good thinkers are a race apart and they leave a bad smell behind them. You think perhaps they penetrated a little further into the unknown than the ordinary fellow? That is a great falsehood. The unknown is a constant and the advances we make into it are illusory. I love the unknown precisely because it is a ‘beyond’, because it is impenetrable.”
That is, the mind cannot elucidate the mystery of the universe to us, it can only falsely convince us; it convinces us that we comprehend the incomprehensible. And this false certitude, that we then carry through life as our guide, is far from the open acceptance of honest ignorance which would bring to us the reality of our marvelous existence.
Life is so far beyond us that the statement “I understand” is a person’s first lie to themselves; certainty is like a psychopathological condition; the confidence of facts and theorems is a mangling lobotomy; by ‘explanation’ we condemn ourselves to the explainable. The least of concepts mutilates the innocent mind.
We are best to ease back into the gentle splendor of puzzlement, regarding the world with humble admiration, rather than invent understandings and then proceed to sheepishly convince ourselves that these are ‘true’.
“Scientists are buffoons,” claims Alan Lightman, “not because they are rational but because the cosmos is irrational.”
“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” William Shakespeare
Indeed there are more incredible things than the mind can conclude.
Once certainty exists- once an individual believes either that they understand correctly, or that correct understanding is at least possible- ‘interpretation’ then becomes the tragic common ground between the sacred and the profane, between the mean and the miracle, between the unknown …and the assumption of knowing. Which is to say, ‘interpretation’, or ‘theory’, as it were, defiles the magnitude of the mystery by making us think it is ‘knowable’. Therefore, to grant this amazing life its true miraculousness is merely a matter of modestly admitting that we are not capable of knowing what life is all about- that it is beyond us …way beyond us.
Knowledge leads not only away from wonder, but also towards worry; through the false particularization of life, suddenly there is a false matrix imposed upon the insouciant, singular play of being, and we find ourselves drowning within the confines of overbearing triviality. Life itself is not the problem; life does not impose cares upon the mind, the mind imposes cares upon life.
As such, our ‘knowledge’ generally falls into one of two categories: useless, or detrimental; either we don’t need it, or we are thoroughly better without it.
One maverick who saw clearly the tragedy of false learning was Bob Marley, legendary for his lyrics, his revelry, and his passion for life …for life’s sake. In his words we find his love, and in his love we find his anger:
“Don’t let them fool ya, or even try to school ya. We’ve got a mind of our own, oh yeah! Don’t let them change ya, or even rearrange ya, oh no!”
“Emancipate yourself from mental slavery,
none but ourselves can free our minds.”
The teachings we have been ‘given’ (or, more precisely, have had foisted upon us) have carved the beautiful Garden into a horrid labyrinth of lostness. Adults adulterate the joyful givenness of life into an encumbering, burdenful yoke- a yoke which must be cast off, if we are to ever reach greener pastures.
“Exterminate learning and there will no longer be worries.” Lao Tzu
The pursuit of facts is purely a fainthearted way to live upon this earth; ‘thought’ is a form of immature trembling, and ‘knowledge’ is simply our current catharsis for not being able to understand what is not understandable.
“Truth?”, demanded Henri Barbusse, “What do they mean by it?”
Ah yes, what do they ‘mean’? What does ‘meaning’ actually mean? When we truly look into this word, we find that the root of ‘meaning’ is ‘mean’ (this is a crucially important point in order to recognize one of our culture’s more specious self-deceptions); the word ‘meaning’, which we have adopted as if synonymous with ‘purpose’, or ‘the definition of’, and which we have proceeded to use as a noun (i.e. ‘to have meaning’, or ‘to find meaning’), is, instead, actually a verb which ‘means’ (if I may employ that misnomer now): ‘to make mean’. And what is it to make ‘mean’? It is to make something vulgar, prosaic, or mediocre- that is what we really get out of meaning. Meaning is meanness.
“To seek for meaning is to cut open the ball in search of its bounce.” Roger Lancelyn Green
Knowledge is a poor consolation, a worshipped failure, for it has not succeeded in emancipating us.
To explain a phenomenon is to distort it; knowledge is an epistemological catastrophe, for when we invest meaning into something that does not possess it inherently, we corrupt it to our own purposes. Which is to say- we ‘know’ it improperly, rather than unknowing it properly. But when finally we come to the necessary acceptance that we do ‘not-know’ we then merge easily into, and belong intimately with, the greater part of life, for that is when we no longer simply ‘know’ a fragment of the whole, but instead we ‘unknow’ all of it. And since we have bound ourselves with ideas and theories, stunting the evolution of the untethered mind, we must now molt conceptually, or we shall remain dwarfed by the cramping encumbrance of outgrown meanings.
“Knowledge is not intelligence”, admonished Herakleitos. And LaoTzu stated: “The wise are not learned; the learned are not wise.”
A person ‘knows’, in fact, only because they are terrified of ‘not knowing’. Knowledge must be recognized as ‘insecure ignorance’, which is why we prefer to harbor a thousand misconceptions rather than have no conceptions at all- because it is much easier to live with lies than to live without truths.
It is because of this, because we are more desperate to be sure than to be right, that our truths have become a pitiful compromise between the impossible admittance that we do not know, and the impossibility that we know.
Cioran concluded: “…this mind has squandered itself in what it has named and circumscribed.”
‘Interpretation’, then, is not- as our thought-based culture would have us believe- the absence of not-knowing, it is actually the hallmark of not knowing; interpretation is the shuddering of the enigmaphobic; ‘knowledge’ is the shibboleth of pusillanimity.
“The stupid effort to drown your ignorance by false knowledge, is the only barrier between you and …reality.” Osho
By false thought we repress the only tool we have to honestly deal with the world- ignorance; for, by equating interpretation with understanding, we do not allow ourselves to not-understand, for we are hidden in the mist of thinking we understand.
What generally happens, however, is that when finally we begin to courageously divorce ourselves from the habit of interpretation, and we stick our heads out of our limited understanding, we suddenly see what we should have been seeing all along- the great Enigma waiting to engulf us. And because we have hidden behind the cowardly walls of interpretation for so long, we cannot now bear the vision of infinite mystery, and therefore we quickly spin about on our heels and crawl back into understanding.
Ernest Becker observed this symptom, writing: “…most of us- by the time we leave childhood- have repressed our vision of the primary miraculousness of creation. We have closed it off, changed it, and no longer perceive the world as it is to raw experience. …The great boon of repression is that it makes it possible to live decisively in an overwhelmingly miraculous and incomprehensible world…”
‘Knowing’, then, is repression; it is a ‘functional delirium’ of the mind, that is all; it is an effective illusion, which allows us to continue avoiding ourselves, avoiding the day when the dam will break and the river of Mystery will sweep us away for good.
Knowledge is nothing but ineffective nescience, or, imperfect ignorance. It is a way of looking at the world with only one eye open, and so it unfortunately it deceives us into believing that we fully can see.
John Van Druten states: “…for the most part we take for granted these things that are in fact the daily miracles of life, as we take for granted the miracle of growth and germination, scattering seeds in a garden and never being surprised that from those tiny black specks next summer’s flowers can be relied upon to come.”
Interpretation, then, is a covering over the great bewildering immensity; a shell the turtle constructs around itself, to hide and blind itself within; a blanket, pulled between the child and darkness, blocking out the ubiquitous unknown.
“The intellectual attitude of our own time, so preponderantly antimythological, expresses our fear of the marvelous, for we have been trying to persuade ourselves that the universe is not a mystery, but a somewhat stupid machine.” Alan Watts
There are no symbols adequate for what we attempt to symbolize; the more we describe the more we obscure. This is simply confusion gone mad.
“You know,” declared J. Krishnamurti, “words are dangerous things because they are symbols, and symbols are not real.”
Words are unreal, because they are merely labels for the unknown; the kun byed rgyal po’i mdo explains: “…truth becomes evasive when its meaning should be expressed in words, and the mind’s thinking is a total obstruction to truth. …[Thus] if the nature of suchness…is not proclaimed with words and letters, the sentient beings with a capable mind will understand it, and thereby the nature of suchness will appear unveiled.”
And Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, speaking from an equally rarified, metaphysical position, exclaimed, “Words are the mind and the mind obscures and distorts. Hence the absolute need to go beyond words. …It is useless to struggle with words to express what is beyond words.”
Reality lies in the intimate experience of the mystery of existence, not in separation from the mystery, and yet separation arises inherently from the labeling of aspects of the one mystery.
As such, Thomas Carlyle argued: “What are your Axioms, and Categories, and Systems, and Aphorisms? Words, words. High Air-Castles are cunningly built of Words, the Words well bedded also in good Logic-mortar, wherein, however, no knowledge will come to lodge.”
Indeed, it is not our ideas, interpretations, or judgements about ‘suchness’ which is the Reality, it is suchness itself, seen as it is, which is only possible by the naked mind.
Words are not ‘suchness’, or ‘what is’; and thus words are dangerous because if that for which we have no clue we proceed to call ‘this’ or ‘that’, we forget that we have no clue. We have labeled the enigma and thus destroyed it.
“No language can hope for anything but its own defeat.” Gregory Palamas
Which is to say- what happens to ‘what is’, when we tangle our multifarious verse into the uni-verse, creating a multi-verse, and then attempt to collate our manifold symbols (which are not reality) into a ‘way’ of seeing- what happens is that we end up with a vision of life ‘veiled’ through lifeless symbols; life becomes a collage of dead, separate ‘things’, instead of a singular, flowing, living, wholeness . This is why our term ‘cata-logue’ (‘cata-’: destruction, and ‘logos’: the ‘word’) literally refers to the disaster that arises from collecting and organizing symbols, which is what happens when we compart-mentalize our understandings, and make closed, separate boxes, and so destroy the natural whole.
Concurring with this, Cioran injects: “Suppose we force ourselves to see to the bottom of words? We see nothing- each of them detached from the expansive and fertile soul, being null and void. The power of the intelligence functions by projecting a certain luster upon them, by polishing them and making them glitter; this power, erected into a system, is called culture- pyrotechnics against a night sky of nothingness.”
Words and facts are naught but veils over the wholeness and beauty of the mystery of ourselves, and of life.
“The more I know, the less I understand.” Don Henley
“If there was no language,” concluded Swamiji Shyam, “it would have been much better.”
It would have been much better because we would see ourselves as we are, not as words describe us. Words are the end of true understanding, just as true understanding is the end of words (by ‘true understanding’, I do not mean ‘understanding’ in the regular sense of the word- that is, as a synonym for ‘knowing’- but rather in the humbler, more genuine, Taoist sense, which tends to locate us more realistically at our place amongst the immensity of the universe; which is to say, to truly understand is to ‘stand under’).
“The Tao which can be named is not the Tao.” Lao Tzu
Reality does not lie in facts, or names, or computations. These are but scars on the purity of the unnamable Life; just as white-noise, or disquieting sounds cover up the blessed silence, so also do arbitrary particularities obscure the unseparate, unknowable Absolute.
Facts prevent us from perceiving the incomprehensible, singular spirit in all life, and instead create the dead, separate ‘ten-thousand things’ we have, to our detriment, been forced to erroneously learn, memorize, regurgitate, and function within, from the day of our birth onward.
The necessity, then, is not to further exert ourselves within the false paradigm, beating our heads against imaginary walls, or blinding ourselves even more with ideas, but instead to purge ‘knowledge’ from our consciousness of it, and walk right out of the diaphanous labyrinth.
We must simply break free now; we must stop understanding things the way we have been told to understand them.
Wonder is our escape route- our journey back to ourselves; wonder is life, the breath of the spirit itself; all else is tubercular boredom, consumption, suffocation, and stasis.
“Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment.” Rumi
It is our duty to ourselves to re-mystify the world, to steal it back from the thieves of wonder. Henry Miller described this vocation- to bring us back to the inescapable joy in the miracle of being- in one of his letters to Anais Nin. He wrote: “…a writer could completely baffle a psychologist; not only that, but that he was more of a psychologist than the other since he ramified the mysteries, extended them, developed them, and left the answers to go hang, because the answers weren’t important, it was the drama, the mystery, the undecipherable pattern that was vital.”
Our task is not to understand, but to return to perfect non-understanding, for truths are subtle atrocities by which we are unwittingly made falsely ignorant by false knowledge, and so we never have the expansive delight of vitalizing true ignorance.
Aldous Huxley remarked, “…the pleasures of ignorance are as great, in their way, as the pleasures of knowledge.”
So we see that ‘knowledge’ obfuscates our unknowable life, because knowledge is impure ignorance; it is the smoke screen of true ignorance, of the infinite freedom of awe, of liberating rapture.
We do not know what we are, we do not know why we are, we do not know who we are. We do not know! Let us finally, absolutely accept this, and begin to live again not as we think we are, but as we truly are, becoming like one of Clarice Lispector’s emancipated characters, of whom she wrote: “… now that the layer of words had been removed from things, now that he had lost speech, he was finally standing in the calm depths of the mystery.”
The calm depths cannot be attained on the tempestuous surface. Without words, without labels, the world becomes naked and bare of the veil obscuring its authenticity, and though this effect is discomforting to the mind which requires things in little boxes, to the individual who has come to appreciate the value of ‘innocent looking’, so to speak, he or she finds that the world comes to make more sense …because it makes less sense.
“The unintelligibility somehow makes profound sense.” Henry Miller.
Somehow, it makes sense. And yet we do not know how. And we should not ask, for that was our mistake in the first place. No, we should be wise enough now simply to accept the implausibility of life, and neither retreat from it, nor try to solve it, but instead to sit back …and enjoy!
Lispector declared of her character again, “…[he] was wise enough not to know- and wise enough not to question, because he was a wise man now.”
We must learn again to understand with the mind of a person who knows that they do not understand; we must understand not understanding, and then endure existing without a ‘why?’, without attempting a subterfuge around this.
“All I know is that I know nothing.” Socrates
Life lies waiting for us, and it is only the loss of our minds away. But we shall leave that for the next chapter. Let us end this one as we began, with Pooh:
“On Monday, when the sun is hot,
I wonder to myself a lot:
‘Now is it true, or is it not,
That what is which and which is what?’
On Tuesday, when it hails and snows,
The feeling in me grows and grows
That hardly anybody knows
If those are these or these are those.
On Wednesday, when the sky is blue,
And I have nothing else to do,
I sometimes wonder if it’s true
That who is what and what is who.”