The biggest challenge of life is not knowing. This not knowing can drive us crazy, not necessarily because of the not knowing, but because of how it fits with what we think we know. The amount of things that we know is astounding. Even if we don’t think we know much, we know thousands of words, we know hundreds of people, we know how to communicate what we are thinking and how to guage what other people are feeling. We know ways to comfort ourselves and others when we notice pain and suffering. We have ideas about numbers, negative numbers, zero and infinity. It’s incredible how much we know that helps us function in our daily lives. When we start to examine those things we think we know, we realize that we don’t even know what we know. It’s hard to know what nothing is. It’s difficult to comprehend infinity.
If we compare all that we know with all that we don’t know, what we know is closer to zero and what we don’t know is closer to infinity. Even if we take all the knowledge in the world, everything that everybody, living and dead, has ever and will ever know about anything, it won’t scratch the surface of the unknown. We can and will spend the rest of our lives trying to fine tune what we know, discarding what we find to be false and keeping what we imagine is true. We continually refine our knowledge so that we can happily exist with everything we don’t know.
Not knowing can be either distressing or exhilarating, it can be paralyzing or liberating. Not knowing what will happen at the end of a book keeps us reading. Not knowing what will happen tomorrow fills the day with possibilities. If we think something horrible will happen, we fret. If we think something wonderful will happen, we feel the joy of anticipation. All we know is where we are, feeling what we’re feeling, thinking what we’re thinking, not knowing how it came about or where it will lead.
When we know that we are stressed or distressed about something we either know or don’t know, we can remember what we know about not knowing and look curiously, openly into our experience and ask ourselves what is happening, knowing that ultimately, we don’t know. When we are able to find comfort in not knowing, we can be comfortable anywhere, because we never know.