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Archive for Monday, March 8, 2010

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The wisdom of ‘not-knowing’

March 8, 2010

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There’s a quote I really love: “I like not to know for as long as possible because then it tells me the truth instead of me imposing the truth.”

The man who said it is Michael Moschen, and I love the quote so much I put it in my e-mail signature. Some folks write back: Wow! Terrific! And some folks just don’t get it; in fact, they get downright snarky about it.

Moschen is the creator of what is often called contact juggling (he hates the name), and you can see what he does by Googling Michael Moschen TED. His work is amazing, beautiful and visionary. Objects seem to float, to interact — sometimes fiercely, sometimes gently. You’ve to see it to believe it.

Moschen describes his work as trying to understand space and time. He’s trying to perceive on a very deep level something that the rest of us take for granted. And that’s where the quote is coming from. He isn’t setting himself up to juggle one more ball or club. He’s not like an ice-skater working one more triple axel into the routine.

When he starts creating a piece he doesn’t know where it’s going to end up. Instead he’s alert, paying attention, moving and watching and learning, and by the time it’s performed it’s become pure magic, something no one could have predicted. Which is the point.

We go through our lives knowing so much. We know what we’ll be doing in an hour, and we know why that person we don’t like does so many stupid things. If there’s a traffic jam ahead we’re pretty sure we know why, and if a friend is unhappy we know just what she ought to do. Our heads are so full of what we know that we end up knowing … nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Instead of seeing what’s happening, we see what we think is supposed to happen because we know what’s supposed to happen because we know so very, very much.

The problem with knowing so very much isn’t that we can’t be Michael Moschen. It isn’t that living in the prison of our expectations prevents innovation. It’s that when we impose our version of the truth — and most of us do most of the time — we cause damage.

Henry James has a phrase: “the abyss of human illusion.” That’s what most of what we think we know is: illusion, so much illusion that it becomes an abyss, and so compelling that we fall into it time and time again.

Unfortunately, we don’t fall down by ourselves. We pull other people down with us. Every dysfunctional family, every dysfunctional organization, every dysfunctional relationship is a witness to that.

So here’s the challenge: be like Michael (Moschen, not Jordan). Not necessarily with space and time (although our misunderstandings of them, especially time, lead to trouble), but with people. Let’s all try not to know for as long as possible so we can hear other people’s truth instead of imposing our own.

Comments

Cait McKnelly 4 years, 1 month ago

Well said, Danny. "Righteousness" has infected modern Christianity and has done more to drive people away from it than attract people to it.

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Daniel Speicher 4 years, 1 month ago

((Continued from above))

I believe that the fear you see in the religious “folk” that you mention is because they, themselves, don’t know what they truly believe. I think you’d find the same result in a humanist who doesn’t know exactly what belief they adhere to… Or a Buddhist… Or a Muslim… Or anyone who is unsure of the belief that they cling to. For those of us who actually work hard to study what we believe, there is no fear. I believe Paul of Tarsus said it best in Romans 8:31, “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?” We do not hold to this arrogantly, but, instead with humble assurance. For, if we believe in Who we say we believe in. And if we believe He is capable of what He says He is capable of… If He truly is all-powerful, all-knowing and ever-present… If He is benevolent and wants the best for our lives… And, if, at the end of the day, we know we will spend eternity with Him… What fear could we possibly have?

The bottom line here, Cappy, is that my heart breaks for modern Christianity, which propagates a sense of “entitlement” in our culture. As if we, ourselves, have achieved some sort of greatness. We have, at some point, forgotten that we are not great. It is Christ, within us, who is great. We have stopped pointing to Him and started pointing to ourselves And, in the process, we have become arrogant, lazy, ignorant and fearful. And, this is what you see. And, for that, I apologize for what I have done… And, what my brothers and sisters in Christ have done.

--Danny Speicher

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Daniel Speicher 4 years, 1 month ago

Cappy, unfortunately you have run into a breed of Christianity (or other faiths, for that matter) that preach judgment over love. When I read Christ's words I don't see that kind of faith being propagated at all. So many people know John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”, which alone tells of Christ’s desire to save and not condemn. But, the verse that people don’t go on to read is verse 17, which makes it clear if clarity was not already had through verse 16. It goes on to say, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

Of course, this is John the Apostle writing of Christ. But, even Christ himself said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10b) He did have times that he was very direct and condemning. These verses, of course, are what Christians like to point to when they choose to get on their high horse against humanity. But, I’d like Christians who are quick to use these verses to realize that the vast majority of these verses are directed toward the religious leaders of the time who they, themselves, enjoyed casting judgment on humanity as well. Perhaps the most shining example is Jesus’ words to the Pharisees after they called Him Satan:

” You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Cappy, I apologize for the actions and words of some of my fellow Christians who have forgotten that Christ came to give the good news of salvation. (After all, the very word “gospel” means “good news”.) Furthermore, I want to correct a mindset that maybe some of us have made you believe that we believe. We, in fact, don’t believe faith brings forth a knowledge of all things. It, instead, brings forth a relationship with the only One who truly knows all things. I, for one, am with you when you point out that as something new is learned “t reveals the many new things you now know that you don't know.” We have no absolute certainty on anything but salvation. We are granted this knowledge through a promise… A gift… Available to anyone, not just to a select few.

((More to be continued))

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Leslie Swearingen 4 years, 1 month ago

Cappy, I have no idea what you are talking about. I do not know who will be going to hell or if anyone will. I have no doubts about my faith or my decision to be a Roman Catholic. Everyone else can make up their own minds about which faith, or none, that they wish to follow. I have read quite a few science books and I have enormous respect for science and the search for knowledge about the world in which we live. We are blessed to live on a prolific planet. The smallest life forms lead very complex lives. As our technology improves so will our ability to see and learn about these things.

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Kirk Larson 4 years, 1 month ago

Irish, What is insulting is when some Faith-based thinker says, "My faith is very real and tells me a) every other faith-based thinker is wrong and is going to Hell or b) you should adopt my faith-based thinking or end up in Hell or c) those other faith-based thinkers deserve death so that I may glory in my particular way of faith-based thinking or c) God hates fags or d) insert faith-based delusion here." What's better and will probably bring you closer to God if he's there : "My faith-based thinking may be and most likely is wrong; I will endeavor to make my own path alongside others on this journey where none of us really know the terrain or the destination." And then read some science books to learn things that are really amazing and real at the same time.

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K_Verses_The_World 4 years, 1 month ago

Gonna change my way of thinking, Make myself a different set of rules. Gonna put my good foot forward, Stop being influenced by fools.

Bob Dylan - Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking

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K_Verses_The_World 4 years, 1 month ago

Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Proverbs 4:7

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Leslie Swearingen 4 years, 1 month ago

That one comment was posted sixteen times! "What you think you know for certain, by faith, is just smoke." That comment is insulting to those of faith. No, my faith is not just smoke. It is very real. Does anyone really ever "know" anyone else? You can be friends with someone for a long time and then find out something that you would never have guessed about this person.

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Kirk Larson 4 years, 1 month ago

lindseydoyle, I disagree. I work in the sciences. Science, some say to me, is wanting to know everything. Not true. The whole point of learning something new in science is it reveals the many new things you now know that you don't know! Religion on the other hand is built on having to know something with absolute certainty through revealed dogma direct from god. I find that religious folk, when pressed, are very afraid of the unknown. I find more comfort in embracing the fact that so much of what we think we know, we really have only peeled back a few layers to the beauty of more mystery beneath which invites more peeling. What you think you know for certain, by faith, is just smoke.

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beatrice 4 years, 1 month ago

equalaccessprivacy, please, just stop it. You are going to give barrypenders ideas he shouldn't be having.

People who don't like science are those who don't like the results.

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lindseydoyle 4 years, 1 month ago

Modern "science" has gotten away from the philosophy of Pragmatism, which this idea essentially is. In fact, what we call "science" has become more like a religion.

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rbwaa 4 years, 1 month ago

@equalaccessprivacy -- way to go with not understanding [or perhaps ignoring] what this article was actually communicating...

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jonas_opines 4 years, 1 month ago

Oh, Begin60, you have a new sign-on. I didn't read the full post before.

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Mel Briscoe 4 years, 1 month ago

count me amongst those who don't get it.

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Roland Gunslinger 4 years, 1 month ago

This is a very wise and well-written piece. Of course people everywhere impose their expectations on others, but in this part of the country the practice seems especially aggressive and toxic.

Even if new-age positive thinking attitudes can't change the world overnight at least such a perspective one readily finds on the west coast represents a far less harmless and open-minded and tolerent and less aggressively intrusive way to approach strangers than the "I'm o.k. you need help" power trip uneducated hicks in Kansas like to foist on complete strangers. A perfect way to terrorize people and define them by cutting them down to one's own size according to intellectually- challenged stereotypes.

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equalaccessprivacy 4 years, 1 month ago

This is a very wise and well-written piece. Of course people everywhere impose their expectations on others, but in this part of the country the practice seems especially aggressive and toxic.

Even if new-age positive thinking attitudes can't change the world overnight at least such a perspective one readily finds on the west coast represents a far less harmless and open-minded and tolerent and less aggressively intrusive way to approach strangers than the "I'm o.k. you need help" power trip uneducated hicks in Kansas like to foist on complete strangers. A perfect way to terrorize people and define them by cutting them down to one's own size according to intellectually- challenged stereotypes.

0

equalaccessprivacy 4 years, 1 month ago

This is a very wise and well-written piece. Of course people everywhere impose their expectations on others, but in this part of the country the practice seems especially aggressive and toxic.

Even if new-age positive thinking attitudes can't change the world overnight at least such a perspective one readily finds on the west coast represents a far less harmless and open-minded and tolerent and less aggressively intrusive way to approach strangers than the "I'm o.k. you need help" power trip uneducated hicks in Kansas like to foist on complete strangers. A perfect way to terrorize people and define them by cutting them down to one's own size according to intellectually- challenged stereotypes.

0

equalaccessprivacy 4 years, 1 month ago

This is a very wise and well-written piece. Of course people everywhere impose their expectations on others, but in this part of the country the practice seems especially aggressive and toxic.

Even if new-age positive thinking attitudes can't change the world overnight at least such a perspective one readily finds on the west coast represents a far less harmless and open-minded and tolerent and less aggressively intrusive way to approach strangers than the "I'm o.k. you need help" power trip uneducated hicks in Kansas like to foist on complete strangers. A perfect way to terrorize people and define them by cutting them down to one's own size according to intellectually- challenged stereotypes.

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Flap Doodle 4 years, 1 month ago

Quit being all clicky, people. Relax and have a popsicle while you are waiting for your comment to appear.

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equalaccessprivacy 4 years, 1 month ago

This is a very wise and well-written piece. Of course people everywhere impose their expectations on others, but in this part of the country the practice seems especially aggressive and toxic.

Even if new-age positive thinking attitudes can't change the world overnight at least this perspective one more readily finds on the west coast represents a far less harmless and open-minded and tolerent and less intrusive way to approach strangers than the "I'm o.k. you need help" power trip uneducated hicks in Kansas like to foist on complete strangers The perfect way to terrorize people and define them by cutting them down to one's own size according to intellectually- challenged stereotypes.

0

equalaccessprivacy 4 years, 1 month ago

This is a very wise and well-written piece. Of course people everywhere impose their expectations on others, but in this part of the country the practice seems especially aggressive and toxic.

Even if new-age positive thinking attitudes can't change the world overnight at least this perspective one more readily finds on the west coast represents a far less harmless and open-minded and tolerent and less intrusive way to approach strangers than the "I'm o.k. you need help" power trip uneducated hicks in Kansas like to foist on complete strangers The perfect way to terrorize people and define them by cutting them down to one's own size according to intellectually- challenged stereotypes.

0

equalaccessprivacy 4 years, 1 month ago

This is a very wise and well-written piece. Of course people everywhere impose their expectations on others, but in this part of the country the practice seems especially aggressive and toxic.

Even if new-age positive thinking attitudes can't change the world overnight at least this perspective one more readily finds on the west coast represents a far less harmless and open-minded and tolerent and less intrusive way to approach strangers than the "I'm o.k. you need help" power trip uneducated hicks in Kansas like to foist on complete strangers The perfect way to terrorize people and define them by cutting them down to one's own size according to intellectually- challenged stereotypes.

0

equalaccessprivacy 4 years, 1 month ago

This is a very wise and well-written piece. Of course people everywhere impose their expectations on others, but in this part of the country the practice seems especially aggressive and toxic.

Even if new-age positive thinking attitudes can't change the world overnight at least this perspective one more readily finds on the west coast represents a far less harmless and open-minded and tolerent and less intrusive way to approach strangers than the "I'm o.k. you need help" power trip uneducated hicks in Kansas like to foist on complete strangers The perfect way to terrorize people and define them by cutting them down to one's own size according to intellectually- challenged stereotypes.

0

equalaccessprivacy 4 years, 1 month ago

This is a very wise and well-written piece. Of course people everywhere impose their expectations on others, but in this part of the country the practice seems especially aggressive and toxic.

Even if new-age positive thinking attitudes can't change the world overnight at least this perspective one more readily finds on the west coast represents a far less harmless and open-minded and tolerent and less intrusive way to approach strangers than the "I'm o.k. you need help" power trip uneducated hicks in Kansas like to foist on complete strangers The perfect way to terrorize people and define them by cutting them down to one's own size according to intellectually- challenged stereotypes.

0

equalaccessprivacy 4 years, 1 month ago

This is a very wise and well-written piece. Of course people everywhere impose their expectations on others, but in this part of the country the practice seems especially aggressive and toxic.

Even if new-age positive thinking attitudes can't change the world overnight at least this perspective one more readily finds on the west coast represents a far less harmless and open-minded and tolerent and less intrusive way to approach strangers than the "I'm o.k. you need help" power trip uneducated hicks in Kansas like to foist on complete strangers The perfect way to terrorize people and define them by cutting them down to one's own size according to intellectually- challenged stereotypes.

0

equalaccessprivacy 4 years, 1 month ago

This is a very wise and well-written piece. Of course people everywhere impose their expectations on others, but in this part of the country the practice seems especially aggressive and toxic.

Even if new-age positive thinking attitudes can't change the world overnight at least this perspective one more readily finds on the west coast represents a far less harmless and open-minded and tolerent and less intrusive way to approach strangers than the "I'm o.k. you need help" power trip uneducated hicks in Kansas like to foist on complete strangers The perfect way to terrorize people and define them by cutting them down to one's own size according to intellectually- challenged stereotypes.

0

equalaccessprivacy 4 years, 1 month ago

This is a very wise and well-written piece. Of course people everywhere impose their expectations on others, but in this part of the country the practice seems especially aggressive and toxic.

Even if new-age positive thinking attitudes can't change the world overnight at least this perspective one more readily finds on the west coast represents a far less harmless and open-minded and tolerent and less intrusive way to approach strangers than the "I'm o.k. you need help" power trip uneducated hicks in Kansas like to foist on complete strangers The perfect way to terrorize people and define them by cutting them down to one's own size according to intellectually- challenged stereotypes.

0

equalaccessprivacy 4 years, 1 month ago

This is a very wise and well-written piece. Of course people everywhere impose their expectations on others, but in this part of the country the practice seems especially aggressive and toxic.

Even if new-age positive thinking attitudes can't change the world overnight at least this perspective one more readily finds on the west coast represents a far less harmless and open-minded and tolerent and less intrusive way to approach strangers than the "I'm o.k. you need help" power trip uneducated hicks in Kansas like to foist on complete strangers The perfect way to terrorize people and define them by cutting them down to one's own size according to intellectually- challenged stereotypes.

0

equalaccessprivacy 4 years, 1 month ago

This is a very wise and well-written piece. Of course people everywhere impose their expectations on others, but in this part of the country the practice seems especially aggressive and toxic.

Even if new-age positive thinking attitudes can't change the world overnight at least this perspective one more readily finds on the west coast represents a far less harmless and open-minded and tolerent and less intrusive way to approach strangers than the "I'm o.k. you need help" power trip uneducated hicks in Kansas like to foist on complete strangers The perfect way to terrorize people and define them by cutting them down to one's own size according to intellectually- challenged stereotypes.

0

equalaccessprivacy 4 years, 1 month ago

This is a very wise and well-written piece. Of course people everywhere impose their expectations on others, but in this part of the country the practice seems especially aggressive and toxic.

Even if new-age positive thinking attitudes can't change the world overnight at least this perspective one more readily finds on the west coast represents a far less harmless and open-minded and tolerent and less intrusive way to approach strangers than the "I'm o.k. you need help" power trip uneducated hicks in Kansas like to foist on complete strangers The perfect way to terrorize people and define them by cutting them down to one's own size according to intellectually- challenged stereotypes.

0

equalaccessprivacy 4 years, 1 month ago

This is a very wise and well-written piece. Of course people everywhere impose their expectations on others, but in this part of the country the practice seems especially aggressive and toxic.

Even if new-age positive thinking attitudes can't change the world overnight at least this perspective one more readily finds on the west coast represents a far less harmless and open-minded and tolerent and less intrusive way to approach strangers than the "I'm o.k. you need help" power trip uneducated hicks in Kansas like to foist on complete strangers The perfect way to terrorize people and define them by cutting them down to one's own size according to intellectually- challenged stereotypes.

0

equalaccessprivacy 4 years, 1 month ago

This is a very wise and well-written piece. Of course people everywhere impose their expectations on others, but in this part of the country the practice seems especially aggressive and toxic.

Even if new-age positive thinking attitudes can't change the world overnight at least this perspective one more readily finds on the west coast represents a far less harmless and open-minded and tolerent and less intrusive way to approach strangers than the "I'm o.k. you need help" power trip uneducated hicks in Kansas like to foist on complete strangers The perfect way to terrorize people and define them by cutting them down to one's own size according to intellectually- challenged stereotypes.

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