The Pursuit of Knowledge

The pursuit of knowledge in and of itself has, in traditional contexts,  been considered a contemplative practice aimed at becoming fully human. One my professors, Charles Scott, said something to this effect the other day and it synthesized a entire conversation for me that we had been having earlier that day in class. It really does not matter the form of contemplative practice. Stillness, movement, reflection, song, nature, writing or otherwise.   It is the emergence that we experience as a result of the practice that counts. For me true knowledge emerges from within. It may be prompted from the outside but when I am stirred up and moved full of curiosity, leaning into the great mystery I am discovering and  learning. This is a kind of knowledge or perhaps wisdom that can’t be acquired any other way. This acquisition of knowledge has to do with our becoming fully human. What is the purpose of acquiring knowledge if not to reach our human make the world a better place, to become more of what we are meant to become for ourselves and each other. Jean Vanier would agree. It is this place of mystery that contemplation offers in which  we make discoveries about existence. It is never complete, it is always emerging.As we become more educated we often develop language with which to make sense of our world. However, language has it’s limitations and great conflict and confusion comes from the divisive use of words. When we stop talking momentarily or speak mindfully and slowly we dive deeply into the mystery and begin to access what is not yet known. The unknown is full of immense possibility. I believe it is where great wisdom is accessed. Call it the collective consciousness, god, the creator, spirit or the ancestors. Regardless of it’s name it is there for all of us and we are all part of it.  It is when the unknown becomes known through the use of language that things become more clear, which we need, however something is also lost at the same time.We somehow have to find a way back into the mystery over and over again in order to transcend our currently reality. The emergence of something new comes from a place with no words, that can’t quite be understood and in which we find stillness, even momentarily. Those murky places are ripe with possibility.  If we can tolerate the discomfort of this and if we can create environments where people are safe enough to venture away from what they know to be true then I believe there is much hope for our future.

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