To Know (20221122)

The word “know” as a transitive verb is defined by Merriam-Webster (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/know) as:

  • To perceive directly; have direct cognition of; to have understanding of; to recognize the nature of (aka discern)
  • Or alternatively: to recognize as being the same as something previously known; to be acquainted or familiar with; to have experience of
  • Or as a deeper revelation: to be aware of the truth or factuality of; be convinced or certain of; to have a practical understanding of

In Henry Gariepy’s book, Wisdom to Live By, when speaking of the book of Proverbs in the Bible, he states that to know wisdom “means more than satisfying intellectual curiosity. It involves experiencing the truth of the proverb.” And that to understand wisdom is to recognize that “to know” is more than head knowledge” but an “enlightened understanding.”

So, where am I going with this? Back to some metaphors and forward to new awareness.

I can gain knowledge of just about anything, and that knowledge becomes integrated with everything else I have learned. An “Ah-Ha!” moment will occur when a situation requires a new solution, and the learned knowledge sparks some creativity or joins two disparate thoughts to form a new creation…a new knowledge.

Say what?

This can be likened to skipping stones on a pond. As the stone initially hits the water, it creates a ripple at the point of contact. The next skip does the same and this pattern is repeated until the stone finally loses its momentum due to surface friction and sinks into the pond. Each ripple created expands outward from point of contact. Sooner or later, two rippling circles with impact each other creating a new set of ripples.

Skipping through knowledge and eventually coming up with an “Ah-Ha” moment is like this. Knowledge gained is retained and when two pieces of knowledge impact each other, new knowledge (awareness) is created. I can then do something with that new knowledge, perhaps even something that has not been done or thought of before.

However, just focusing on the skipping ripples belies the point of final entry. Where the stone loses forward motion and dives into the depths of the pond. There is something to be said about diving deep. To take one (or two) points of knowledge and dive deeper. To get to the point of really Knowing.

And that’s the point. I spend my life focusing on skipping stones and points of knowledge, joining them helter-skelter to come up with creative ways of changing my perspective. However, I miss the opportunities that come about by sitting back and dwelling on a point of knowledge or moment of awareness. I succumb to life’s harried pace and miss those golden opportunities to: Just. Be. Still. And. Ponder.

Skipping denies the greater “Ah-Ha” moments. It is hard to learn a musical instrument if I am just skipping through the lessons instead of investing myself in digging into each session. I miss out on new awareness if I merely touch new knowledge without diving in with full mind, body, and spirit.

And yet, there is value in both views. Some of the greatest strides forward take disparate nuggets of wisdom and join them into something never before dreamed. And thus, a new knowledgebase and wisdom is gained.

There is also great value in diving deep…so deep that the rest of world seems to disappear. And new deep knowledge breaks free due to that greater understanding.

It’s that balance: of being able to skip stones but also take moments to sink into the pond. I (we?) must “merely” discover when each path is to be travelled. Perhaps discerning when two conjoining ripples touch each other we realize that diving deeper at that point will not only bring new surface knowledge to route but also bring a deeper sense of what to do with that awareness.

Then again, maybe we are merely the rock thrower preparing the pond for others to investigate…

Lessons – Glass Half Full/Half Empty (20221105)

In so many talks, the glass half full/glass half empty parable is used to help us understand whether we are bent toward optimism (half full) or pessimism (half empty). I have always thought the glass was full; it just had two different components: water and air. So, I guess I am pessimistically optimistic or optimistically pessimistic?

Then there is the story about the psychology professor, which strikes several chords with me and changes my perspective on the half full/half empty scenario. Here’s the story (this version is from “The Weight of the Glass.” by Thanh_min, Mar 19, 2017,  https://medium.com/motivationapp/the-weight-of-the-glass-a0e120ed90b3  ).

Once upon a time a psychology professor walked around on a stage while teaching stress management principles to an auditorium filled with students. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the typical “glass half empty or glass half full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, the professor asked, “How heavy is this glass of water I’m holding?” 

Students shouted out answers ranging from eight ounces to a couple pounds.

She replied, “From my perspective, the absolute weight of this glass doesn’t matter. It all depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute or two, it’s fairly light. If I hold it for an hour straight, its weight might make my arm ache a little. If I hold it for a day straight, my arm will likely cramp up and feel completely numb and paralyzed, forcing me to drop the glass to the floor. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it feels to me.”

As the class shook their heads in agreement, she continued, “Your stresses and worries in life are very much like this glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and you begin to ache a little. Think about them all day long, and you will feel completely numb and paralyzed — incapable of doing anything else until you drop them.”

A totally different metaphor using the same “props” yet just as powerful, if not more so. Whether we are talking about stress, grief, sorrow, joy, anger, contentment, or any of the other myriad of human emotions and thoughts, the longer we hold them the more ingrained they become and begin to shape who we are, our perspectives, and how we present ourselves to the world. We all can envision how the bleaker side of our thoughts and emotions will darken our view of others, the world, or our situation. Regrets held on for years only serve to stifle us in seeking hope in today and tomorrow; anger only allows us to see one viewpoint and filters out all other perspectives. Guilt, sadness, depression, hopelessness, and others seek to break the human spirit especially if held to the point of feeling numb and paralyzed.

Yet, there are the lighter emotions. Gratitude, joy, humor, hope, stoicism (a bit neutral but better than negativity), love, and contentedness are just a few of those thoughts and feelings that uplift us. It is no wonder our spiritual guides try to veer us from the “Dark Side” of our inner voices. The Bible even has a verse solely focused on this:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8, NIV)

But we are inundated by our social media and news services, and by the messages politicians and disinformation quacks present to us: we are not good enough, we are not pretty or rich enough, we are all racial hypocrites, the sky is falling, no help, no hope, it’s their fault, it’s our fault, look we have an issue here but over in Outer Slobobia the same issue has arisen (like there is even the slimmest of chances there is a relationship between the two!). It becomes so hard to see the “lighter side” of the world…to have hope, to seek peace, to find contentment, to discover our passions…when we are beaten into the dirt and stomped on by all the talking head pundits.

Perhaps that one verse, taken as our daily mantra, with a healthy dose of gratitude and a few laughs can make us dig out from the pits of despair. 

It’s worth the gamble. It’s worth the time. And it bears repeating:

“… whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Amen.