What I Can Know

[The following is a lightly edited blog post that I published elsewhere in November of 2014.]

A little over seven years ago I began a long journey in acknowledging my ignorance.

Decency and decorum demand that I refrain from describing my circumstances. Let’s just say that I was in a horrible situation that lasted a good long while. After the situation had begun to resolve, I had a lot of healing to do. During the healing process, I developed a willingness to admit that there was a lot that I don’t know.

My ability to admit my know-nothingness also makes me a hell of a lot more teachable and receptive to new knowledge. I’m now comfortable acknowledging my ignorance and am increasingly open to different ideas and experiences.

Earlier this year I found myself in a perplexing situation. I took action, necessary action. Still, I found myself in free-fall. My discomfort grew by the day.

(I don’t know if the situation will ever resolve. Closure is a rare gift.)

I continued to struggle for months after I took action. I also began to wonder if I’d ever get over the situation. Even worse, I began to think that I was regressing. I kept on replaying the scenario in my head, to no good end. My anxiety and stress increased by the day.

I became incredibly confused. I thought I’d got over this sort of self-torture. I thought I’d got to the point where I could accept that there were things that I could not know and situations that I could not control. But now I afflicted myself with these ugly old habits of mind and heart. I had to stop this. But I didn’t know how.

Finally, after some struggle, I began to reflect on a pivotal interaction in the situation. I had a choice to make. A painful choice. I chose, I acted, and then dealt with the consequences.

In the midst of a horrific anxiety attack, I replayed the situation in my mind once again. But this time I asked myself a question:

Did I do the right thing?

After some consideration, I answered Yes.

Then I asked myself another question:

Do I know that I did the right thing?

Suddenly, the answer came: Yes, I made the right choice. I acted rightly.

My answer wasn’t an opinion. I knew the answer. I knew I’d done the right thing. I knew it just as I am sure of my bedroom floor beneath my feet. Yes, I can parse out the logic of my decision. I can cite the ethical principles involved and demonstrate my knowledge of practical psychology. But at that moment when I knew that I’d done the right thing, logic, ethics, and appropriate relational boundaries seemed quite distant. I’d never felt knowledge that deeply before. It permeated the core of my being instead of just flooding my brain.

At that point, much of my angst evaporated. I was able to step away from the unresolved situation. While I can’t know or understand the entirety of the circumstances that gave me such pain, I eventually learned what I could know.

I also know what it feels like to know what I can know.

And for now, this is enough.

Image Credit
© José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro / , via Wikimedia Commons