Knowing and Not Knowing

By January 16, 2012 culture, faith No Comments

Snow has finally descended upon us here in central Illinois. It was late coming. The snowy streets make for unpleasant driving (and running!) conditions, but there is something calming about it.

Landscapes cloaked in sparkly white whisper, “Hush, be still.” And so I did just that—I watched the flakes fall and gather, building up along the window frame and in the crooks of the now-barren branches. The stillness builds up in me, and I am humbled by the wonder of it all.

I rest in knowing that He is God, and I am not.

This knowing what I know, and knowing I don’t know it all, is a gift. Call it wisdom, maturity, humility—whatever it is, without it pride and arrogance take over, making a wreck of the stillness.

I cannot claim knowledge about the world when there is a world of mystery swirling about within me—of all things, shouldn’t I be most aware of who I am? In the stillness, I am confronted with how little I know, about the universe out there and in here. I know I am not God but at times I live like I am.

It wasn’t just the falling snow that has stirred these thoughts. I’ve been reading The Social Animal by David Brooks for the High Calling book club (you are welcome to join the club—get the book and participate in discussion each Monday). It is a fascinating mix of fiction laced with psychological fact. Brooks is using fictional characters as a backdrop for explaining how relationships make us who we are. Although the main character is a guy named Harold, Brooks couldn’t being with Harold; Harold begins with his parents and the relationship they built together which produced this guy. After getting a good picture of the parents, we can see how they raised Harold and how that shaped him.

Our reading for this week takes us through chapter 6; Harold is yet a young boy, but we are beginning to see his personality emerge from events he will never remember. The daily relational interactions make us who we are . . . but we won’t remember them specifically. Brooks says:

This is why all biographies are inadequate; they can never capture the inner currents. This is why self-knowledge is limited. Only a few remarkable people can sense the way early experience has built models in the brain. Later in life we build fictions and theories to paper over the mystery of what is happening deep inside, but in childhood, the inexplicableness of the world is still vivid and fresh, and sometimes hits with terrifying force. 1

The inner currents within my own heart and soul often rush me down rivers I would rather not travel. They are powerful. It takes mere seconds for currents to overwhelm whatever stillness I had found. That’s why I have built my own fictional sense of reality to make sense of my inner universe—because I cannot control it. Giving it a label, naming the mystery, makes me feel more at ease with it. I know the Johari Window is true.

Truer still is that God knows me in all my quadrants. He knows all mysteries that current inside me and throughout the universe. And that’s why I can be still, knowing what I know . . . and what I don’t.


Read other book club participant posts from this week.

1. David Brooks, The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement (New York, NY: Random House, 2011), 85.

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