If only we knew… knew what we truly wanted… knew what was expected of us… knew our true potential… knew clearly- right from wrong… knew how to work, to love, to care, to respond, to express, to atone, to change… the list is endless!
But, why do we wish to know? Do we hope and perhaps, suppose that knowledge can arm us with the power to shape our experiences; that somehow we can take charge of our destinies and escape the effects of karma? Is there this hope within us that prior knowledge can help mitigate the experiences that life has in store for us?
And, does it? Does knowing about death; about the transient and phenomenal nature of existence save us from experiencing grief and sorrow and loss? Does knowing a priori the many challenges in a marital relationship save us from experiencing our own?
What then, can be an appropriate expectation from our knowledge? Is the purpose of man’s education to ‘know’ his world and thereby gain sovereignty over it? We wish that our learning be elegant, sophisticated, free of all embarrassing follies. Yet, probe a little, and you’ll see that it is only after fully experiencing that we truly learn. We get affected, addicted; we fall; we err; we summon up a dormant courage, we rise and we learn. Our education system supposes that if we started from the end we’d skip the pain and suffering and jump to a higher level of consciousness. So it says- learn, rise, summon up your courage and beware of falling… But then, aren’t we putting the proverbial cart before the horse?
What is true knowledge? When can you say you know something? How do you know? Can knowledge be borrowed or transferred? Does knowledge fulfill a purpose or is knowledge in itself, the purpose to be fulfilled?
We perceive a world external to us. It seems to have been there even before we were born and we believe it shall be there even after we go. Our instructions about this world begin very early on in our lives. We see, hear, smell, taste and touch and that knowledge is interpreted for us. We’re informed that that what we touch, see, hear and smell has a name; and not only will knowing those names do us good (in terms of social acceptance and survival), but also, we must know what the world before us has known about our experiences. We call this education.
But is such an education past its day? When man believed that the world manifest before him was a challenge he needed to surmount, an education at the level of gathering and disseminating information may have been relevant and enough. But has this information-oriented system of education become irrelevant today? Today, we’re aware that the world’s challenges- global warming, environmental molestation, terrorism, consumerism, corruption, violence, excessive legislation, power imbalances, wealth and resource depletion and of course, a token education begin and end with the biggest culprit- man himself. He alone is both the problem and its solution. Of all the problems we perceive at a macro level, the individual’s constitution is the microcosm. What seems like a huge monster-like challenge- standing outside of us- has in reality- proceeded from the darkness of the individual heart and mind. Where true knowledge is absent, imagination is most fertile and desire uncontrollable. Our imagining that our futures might be at stake pushes us to amass and hoard wealth. Our imagining that we may be deprived of love, affection and acceptance, makes pretense, lying and empty tokenism a way of life. Our imaginary fear that life is ruthless and difficult makes corrupting an easy lifestyle choice. We delude ourselves into believing that we know… but can you truly claim to know anything without knowing the fears and machinations of your own mind.
It is to dispel this darkness that man seeks knowledge. And we wish that the knowledge we receive be true and authentic and not the mere transference of another’s interpretation and fertile imagination. But how are we to know that we indeed, truly know?
We read. We speak. We exchange views and we find ourselves believing some things and discarding others. The external stimuli are available to all; yet the simple action of an apple falling from a tree prompts a Newton to discover the law of gravity, an artist to see in it a rich symbolism and an agriculturist- an opportunity for cultivation. It seems that we come to know what is in our essential nature to know. We can only know that which resonates and concurs with something already in existence within us. Look back and you shall see that the knowledge that truly mattered was not that which cloaked your ignorance, but was that which revealed to you your wisdom. Wisdom does not dwell in the height or breadth of our thinking, but lies in the depth of our understanding. And therefore, often, the most erudite teachings, that hold the answers to every possible question ever asked pass us by like an indifferent wind. Not everything touches us, speaks to us or inspires us. And when something does, we truly feel that it lends more power to our voice.
True knowledge therefore, may be discerned in correct self-expression. When you know something truly and authentically, it flows in and out of you as effortlessly as your breath. The quest for knowledge is fundamentally, a search for your own voice.
Knowledge and understanding cannot be given to us unless we have within us an equal knowledge and understanding to give.

One thought on “To Know is to Exhale

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