Conversations with Fear

Ignorance: November 15, 2000

     Some days later, it occurred to me that to hold a secret inviolate means to keep someone else in the "darkness" of ignorance. It is thus my knowledge that I am attempting to protect by guaranteeing their ignorance. But what, I began to wonder, is "ignorance." With this in mind, I once again visited Fear.
     "Fear, we talked about secrets a few days ago, and now I want to discuss 'ignorance' because it seems to me that a secret is dependent on a relationship with ignorance."
     "Not only ignorance," replied Fear, "but also 'knowledge' and 'intuition.'"
     "What do you mean, when you say 'but also knowledge and intuition?'"
     "A secret is knowledge that you hold in your mind at the expense of someone else. Because knowledge is born of ignorance, it can only exist in relationship to ignorance. Therefore, both knowledge and ignorance are relative, which means one cannot exist without the other because each exists in the other as a seed of its opposite.
     "I can see from your quizzical expression that you aren't following me."
     "No," I confessed, "I'm not."
     "Well," said Fear, "ignorance is the lack of knowledge about something, in a relative sense of course. If ignorance is the lack of knowledge about something, is not knowledge the lack of ignorance about something, also in a relative sense?
     "Think of it this way. You're a scientist whose life has been dedicated to the search for knowledge. As your knowledge of a particular subject of interest has grown, has not your ignorance of that subject declined in like measure?"
     "Yes, I suppose so. But by the same token," I said thoughtfully, "I have come to realize that I can never have all possible knowledge on any given subject, no matter how limited in scope is my quest. Therefore, I must hold gently the truth as I see it. For example, I can't have all knowledge of even a single atom, if for not other reason than the atom's history is untraceable by my intellect. And even if I could trace it, there would be no way I could comprehend the myriad, ever-expanding ripples of cause and effect created by that atom during its lifetime of interactions with other atoms."
     "That," instructed Fear, "is precisely why both knowledge and ignorance are relative and can never be absolute, which means that every intellectual gyration of the human mind is relative—all to my advantage, despite Carl T. Rowan's comment that 'the library is the temple of learning, [by which I'm sure he meant knowledge] and learning has liberated more people than all the wars in human history.'"
     "Why," I asked, "is relativity to your advantage? By the way, who is Carl T. Rowan anyhow?"
     "Rowan? He's an author and journalist. But that begs the question you asked," said Fear with some impatience.
     "Relativity is to my advantage because the more certain you are of your knowledge, the more ignorant you are of the Truth, which knowledge can never reveal. Consider, for example, that your science can never prove anything. It can only disprove something."
     "What then," I challenged, "is a scientific fact?"
     "A so-called scientific fact," snickered Fear, "is merely an artificial construct created by society to allow an individual to cease questioning something for which no finite answer can be found, and thereby save face."
     "Are you saying that because all knowledge is infinite, we delude ourselves into thinking knowledge is the path to Truth—even relative truth?"
     "That's exactly what I'm saying because Truth is absolute. So how can knowledge lead you to Truth when knowledge itself is only relative and thus infinite in its relativity? Even if you had all knowledge of an atom at a given moment, your sense of that knowledge would change with your growing maturity, causing you perceive that snapshot differently as your sense of passing time alters your view of life."
     "If I understand you correctly, you're telling me that we humans can never 'know' anything through our search for knowledge.
     "Why is that to your advantage, as you mentioned earlier?"
     "Because," said Fear, "in your unmitigated Western intellectual arrogance, you're so very certain of your knowledge that you take it for Truth. And when these alleged 'Truths'—to which you pledge allegiance—are challenged by new data, you find it extremely disorienting. In fact, you people, especially you scientists, are openly skeptical because the results of new data, if upheld, will drastically undermine what you think you know.
     "It's nothing new," chuckled Fear. "I've heard it a million times: 'I'm flexible, just as long as I don't have to change my thinking.' And it's this inflexible certainty that leads to my doorstep because your denial of uncertainty is often the root cause of your environmental and social blunders."
     "Is there no certainty in the world?"
     "Of course there is, but you intellectually addicted Westerners deny its existence. You are, after all, creative creatures spurred by doubt, confusion, and dissatisfaction with what is, both within and without, which constantly compels you to seek new ways of understanding yourselves and the world in which you live. Certainty, on the other hand, is the essence of Truth, which comes to you in the form of intuition—the 'knowing  beyond knowledge' that you cannot find by seeking."
     "And where," I want to know, "does intuition reside?"
     "Intuition, the voice of the Eternal Mystery, resides in ignorance with knowledge. But you don't hear intuition speak because it whispers softly in you heart, like a gentle breeze blowing through the new grass of spring—a breeze content to caress your heart with its selfless Love. Knowledge, on the other hand, always screams for attention like a storm wind, always seeks stimulation, always causes your Western mind to chase the future, in which you think more knowledge lies, because the eternal present, your current knowledge, is  never enough. Therefore, you're always trying to 'cure' ignorance with knowledge and missing the divine essence of ignorance as a sacred place—a place wherein I cannot tread for it holds within itself the divine abode of the Eternal, which includes intuition, Love, and innocence, as well as all knowledge."
     "What does that leave you?" I asked.
     "That leaves me the intellectual future wherein I console myself with uncertainty. But that is enough since you seem bent on pursuing knowledge as though it were the quarry and you the hunter sworn to capture it, cage it, and stare at it without understanding it. In so doing, you despoil ignorance, which is where all questions are born, including those the pursuit of which give meaning to your human lives.
     "Ignorance is a gift of the Eternal, a divine chest, if you will, in which the Eternal safeguards all of humanity's gifts until the day arrives—if it ever does, and I'm betting it won't—that humanity is wise enough to use those gifts as they were intended to be used."
     "And how, might I ask, do you think the Eternal intends us to use these gifts?"
     "Clearly, you're intended to honor them, but first you must see them as gifts."
     "Your point is well taken," I said, "because I find tucked away in my ignorance the quiet voice of my spirituality, the unasked questions that delight in teasing my mind without seeking an answer, the innocence of the Eternal Now, the awe of Creation that is endlessly creating Itself, and the wonder of all that I perceive—from a sunset to a snow flake, from rainbows to northern lights, from a grain of sand to a star, from a protozoan to a tree. All this about which I can wonder with no need to question or to know, all this enfolds itself in my ignorance. Why indeed, would I want to obliterate my ignorance when it holds all that is sacred?"
     "Fortunately for me, however, your Western intellect seems determined to slay ignorance, and the gates to my kingdom daily admit the hoards who rush blindly along the path of uncertainty based on the variability of knowledge as they reach into the future to grovel in darkness at my feet."

© chris maser 2000. All rights reserved.

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