Becoming an expert at not knowing
In a culture in which we give so much value to knowing, to being an expert, to impress and to defend opinions (ah! Opinions… but that will be my subject another time), I will dare going out on a limb and offer the idea of a mindset that could permit all of us to get along better, to evolve faster, to learn constantly and to be, generally speaking, taking a very unpopular stand on a regular basis…
What if, despite my fears to not look good enough, savant enough, impressive enough, I dared practicing every day to become an expert at not knowing? What if instead of wanting to live by what I do know, or believe I know, I took the dizzying step to try and not be sure? What if my main tool, my main shtick, my main attitude from now on, was curiosity?
What if I was fool enough to admit that I’m not sure, that nothing is certain in my world, that my best approach for a life of discovery and creation, is to explore and challenge my certainties often enough to not fossilize myself into a rigid persona, where little by little, I come to believe that I am defined by what I am sure of? I know, disturbing prospect isn’t it? Indeed. I am a lot more comfortable when I know. When I master, when I can be adamant, when I have no doubt. And I’d bet you are too.
Never be sure, always questioning, wondering, could become crippling. I might freeze right here, stuck in uncertainty, not willing to take a step in any direction. And for real, I know of some of my clients getting stuck that way. Debating, arguing with themselves, afraid of taking the wrong decision, to make the wrong move… Dead stuck.
But that’s not the kind of uncertainty I defend here. Rather it’s about not being so corseted in our view of the world, to let loose a bit, to remain always open to another angle, another perspective, another technique, another idea… To be willing to try new ways, to endorse even for a minute another perspective, to take a chance and be willing to make mistakes. To adventure. To explore. To question. To challenge our default setting.
That would radically change our approach to people who don’t seem to be like us. That would keep a door open on finding common ground. That would even make us understand better our fellow humans and ourselves…
Because, after all, how do we get to live by the beliefs we live and defend, on a daily basis? How did we get our view of the world? Our orientations? Our taste for money or our dislike of it? Our love for family or our weariness of any group? Our idea of the divine or lack thereof? Our confidence or our fear? For most of it it started by…. Curiosity.
Let’s go back.
When we were toddlers, then young children, our overall attitude was one of questioning, of not knowing, of wanting to know more, (ourrelentless questions! WHY…?) and as we grew, our environment brought us answers. The formative figures around us passed on to us their own beliefs, most of the time not really theirs, but the ones dominant in the culture around them when THEY were growing up… And either we grew up adopting these beliefs, principles and attitudes or grew ourselves against them, we did it in a rather narrow range, all considered.
Next thing we know, we are adults and trying our way in the world, efforting to become autonomous, competent, accepted, efficient, and to belong. At some point, we spend more time defending what we know, or think we know, than being passionately curious. That comes to play very strongly when we are in front of people, systems, cultures, attitudes, dogmas, that challenge ours. It is so much easier to barricade ourselves behind the strong fences of our certain isn’t it? To just feel right, and sure that these others are wrong. Plain wrong. Division then takes up all the room. In our mind there is only that need to prove our being right. No desire for common ground (though there will always be some). No taking the risk to be swayed, or to, at least, have a different understanding of the world, of issues, of solutions… No calling for trying radically different angles for size. No taking steps outside of the well known. We might even forget that we want to be good people and become raging radicals. I know I did at times. I probably will again, when I forget to stay curious.
But since my soul inclination is really toward togetherness, and growth, and diversity, and exploration, I vouch to try and become an expert at not knowing. At least often enough to be able to meet you somewhere between your beliefs and mine.
I love this quote from Rumi “Out beyond ideas of wrong doing and right doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” To your freedom. With love Emmeline