Jean Croker Petke

Not Knowing

Not Knowing

We want instant answers for everything. And often we can get them — on our phone, our computer, on Google, or from Siri. We have the world in our hands nearly all the time.

In The Amazing Story of the Man Who Cycled from India to Europe for Love, Per J Andersson writes, “It is enough to comprehend only a small part of life. He is content knowing that there is much he will never understand.”

But what about you? Are you content knowing there is much you will never understand? Are you o.k. not knowing . . .

  • what the weather will be for your vacation
  • how your children behave when you’re not present
  • how the world really came to be
  • why there is evil in the world
  • what you will die from
  • how long you will live
  • why people don’t answer emails
  • why invitees don’t respond to your invitations
  • why your spouse or children don’t do the thing the first time you ask them

I’m sure you could add many things to this list, but that’s not the point. The question is: how do you deal with the uncertainties and unknowns of life?

  • Do you read and research and consult with more knowledgeable people to get as close to an answer as you can?
  • Do you carry a burden of “not knowing” which often comes with fears and anxieties that make it difficult to move ahead?
  • Are you O.K.. with not knowing? Is it because you don’t care, or have you accepted the fact that there are some things you will never know?

Coming to a state of contentment — in the midst of unknowing — is elusive. We think we understand it, we believe we can make it happen, and then it slips through our fingers like beach sand. In our feeble attempts to relieve our questions . . .

  • we discover we don’t trust — both ourselves and others — to do what we say we will do or what we intend to do. We find our commitments and convictions sorely lacking — not in everything, but in some key areas.
  • we discover our need to control many things in our lives. We have difficulty stepping back and lettings others be who they are, make their own choices, and experience the consequences for themselves.

Our dilemma is how do we live with uncertainty and unknowing (live being the operative word)?

First, accept that there are some things you will never know, some questions that cannot be answered to your satisfaction. Focus on what you do know.

Second, accept that some things are beyond your control. Then let go of the stress and anxiety about such things. Focus on what you can influence and control.

My goal — perhaps yours, too — is to be able to say, as Julian of Norwich said in the fourteenth century:

All shall be well,

and all shall be well

and all manner of thing shall be well.  

Until next Tuesday . . .

2 Comments - Leave a Comment
  • Joan B. Wilson -

    Julian of Norwich is one of my favorite people. Your quote is one of my mantras. She is the paragon of perseverance.

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