Tuesday, October 4, 2011

"I don't know."

     Why do we feel the 
need to know everything, or at least appear like we do? Everyone must be aware of the sheer impossibility of this... So why are we so uncomfortable with saying we don't know? I can't tell you how many times I've thought something about myself would never change; I'd always hate kids, I'd always love cigarettes, most recently that I would never like onions. 

Needless to say I use them almost every time I cook now. I just have to cook them so they aren't as crunchy and I love the flavor. In fact, it feels like something is missing if I go without them now. I like to use concrete examples, such as me disliking onions and coming to find out I just had to tweak them a bit to suit my taste, as metaphors that apply to life. 
Think about what your onions, that you could appreciate only if you treated them differently, might be. I know this is a cheesy example, but bear with me. ;)

I hear people use absolutes all the time; "Always", "Never", "Destined", etc. But is anything really absolute? Even the most obvious examples you can conjure off the top of your head (e.g. "The sun will always be hot") is up for debate. We once thought the world was flat. Einstein's Theory of Relativity was recently challenged. There is even evidence that The Sahara used to be a rain forest. Newsflash: We don't know anything!

    What illusions might you be carrying around that you could benefit from banishing or maybe just questioning?

     So back to the original question, why do we do this? It's because of something that nearly (see me dodge that absolute there?) has; Ego. In my own words, the ego is our own idea of what we are like.
Upon the attainment of some self awareness you'll discover how often you feel the need to defend your sense of self, or ego. This happens when you want to correct someone, or "put them in their place", or when you're afraid to say you don't know the answer to something. This happens when you are afraid what someone will think of you, when you try to impress somebody, or when you say things to come across as a certain way. As ever changing beings, clinging to this notion of "self" is bound to bring torment. And I found that once I started asking questions, such as "Who am I trying to impress here?", "Why do I want myself to seem this way?", "What am I afraid of?" the weak foundations of my ego came crashing down. This may sound like a frightening concept, losing your sense of self. But it is exactly the opposite.

     Once you embrace the notion that you shouldn't cling to a self since you're always changing, you realize you're free to be whatever you want. No more torturing yourself for failing to keep up with the personality you thought you had, or changing your mind about something. Yeah, we all want to be in control of our own lives, but as tightly as we grip this desire, does it ever happen without fail? Absolutely not. You can meticulously plan your life, day, or personality and the only things you can reasonably count on without fail is that you and/or your circumstances are going to change. You'll decide you like or don't like someone after all, or the proverbial rain on the day of your planned picnic will happen. So are you helping or hindering yourself by giving yourself the illusion of being in control? Would it not make more sense to surrender to the fact that you are not? If this sounds a bit radical, try it out for a day or two and see what you think. Every time you hear the voice in your head try to define or judge something, try replacing the assumption with a question. Embrace the power of "I don't know"!

"Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death."

"To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, remove things every day."


  1. This is great. I've learned over the years how many of my absolutes have come crashing down. Never have kids? Maaaaybe I will. Hate cold weather? Maaaaaybe it's nice sometimes. You are right, it's very freeing to admit how much we don't know. The more I learn, the more I don't know a damn thing! But it's impossible to learn and grow when you think you are already filled with enough knowing. It's best to empty all the things we think we know so we can be open to new information.