Tuesday, April 08, 2014

I Thought I Knew

About ten years ago, I turned to my not-yet-husband and said, “I’ve come to some conclusions.”

And I really thought I was done. As if there was nothing else to know.

I believe I was tired of learning.

Before that day, I had subscribed to Socrates’ mode of travel which was to approach everything with the fresh face that sings, “All I know is I know nothing.”  This is not the exact Socratic quote and I only followed the spirit of it as I understood it, and then took it too far, but it’s close. The real quote, and I just looked it up, is “I know that I know nothing.” Socrates, in an ego toss, was actually saying that he is wiser than the man who claims he knows something when that man does not know, that Socrates at least knows that he doesn’t know, which makes Socrates wiser than the man who claims he has knowledge.

I simplified all that competition. I just decided to take the quote and live it without any double meaning, taking no one else into it for comparison. I figured if I approached every situation as if I did not know anything, then I would be very open to learning. Thus, I would probably learn something I did not know before. Instead of being a frigging expert, I would always be open to new information.  I did take this on for most of my twenties and thirties. It was a thrill. And it was my misinterpretation of the quote, or rather, my ripping just a hunk of it off for my own use that sent me down my path. Chance.

Eventually, I felt like I had been too open, took too much in, approached things with a constantly quizzical mind and this proved to be overwhelming. In other words, I got kind of worn out. Plus, it was ridiculous to pretend that I knew nothing when, clearly, if you approach a situation completely open to learning new things, well, you would end up learning a real lot. I was done knowing nothing.

So then, at that about-ten-year-ago-point…I just carried on with whatever I had learned, applying it here and there, within my state of mind that was all about very defined conclusions. I was open to new information, but most new information was only bits that I added on. Nothing radically changed.  I knew a bunch of stuff to approach most situations while only adding those little bits. I played it. It did certain things. Going from knowing that I knew nothing to then one day saying, “I have come to some conclusions,” was a pessimistic turn. But more than that, like Socrates, a bit of an ego party: the philosopher, claiming greater intelligence over others, me, figuring I had learned all that was needed.

Eventually…I got bored, being an expert, like all the other experts who were bored. I felt like I was living my life out in this sort of paper trail, or really, an email trail.

Then things got dark. I did not know how to continue, exactly, with my conclusions. Joyless, sort of. East coast winters are depressing. Seasonal living is a bit of a wash, rinse, repeat thing. There is a lot of anger and aggression on the Atlantic. And of course, everyone went to Yale and though I have seen it from the highway, I have not been able to face the birthplace of so much expertise. I had doubts. I had a lot of non-clarity. And despair, which I banished from my life for decades, did creep in, especially on Mondays, and told me that it was in charge.

I did many things to outrun it.

I tried to be fully sober for two years. I succeeded. And that was interesting. But drink was not really the problem. So I started drinking again, and nothing really changed.

I tried being exceptionally industrious for four years. Certain things came from that. But certainly, no great amount of money, or fame or ecstasy. Being disciplined did not bring transcendence, at all. In fact, the discipline felt a bit compulsive. So that was not very fun.

During all these days, I was exceptionally organized. This is nothing new. This is something I have always done. And frankly, the things that I did to be organized, like having systems in place for the care of properties, the paying of bills, the planning for social events, travel and necessary correspondences, was something that came to me naturally, but it all felt a bit dead. (I was going to say old and dead but now that I am getting older, I don’t want to use that phrase. Old and alive. Yes.)

So I was left with a big looking mess at my feet. A history of not knowing, then knowing everything followed by drudgery. The question then became to know, or not to know? To approach with expertise or to approach with an open, flat face?

I knew I would keep the simple things going in a very organized fashion. This has to be done. Unless I want to job it out, which I could do, I may as well take care of the minutia as it arises since managing someone to take care of the minutia as it arises can take almost as much time.

But this idea of either knowing or not knowing, this approach, to decide that you can decide one approach or another, at all, is a form of fear and control that is useless. Socrates was in his head more than he was in his experience, it seems. But then, I might know this or I might not know this or I might know something else that is pushing me to write this.

I do not believe in any dogma. I think the serenity prayer is good in a pinch. However, it is useless for generalized mood states and is not a catch-all bowl for struggles.

I do not believe in any sort of God unless I am feeling exceptionally vulnerable, and then I do…and it is the God of my childhood…some sort of parental figure up in the sky who cares about me, so, in effect, it is most likely my parents and my good grandparents all rolled up into some love-ball in the ethers that I am drawing from. Which is fine. One needs to sometimes feel that a burst of unending love (but really: care) is the force that is keeping things upright. So bully for us all who call upon a made up brain based Daddy-Mommy-God in times of despair.

I have nothing to say that is clear or connected to Jesus or any prophet or any political garbage or anything about war. This tends to go nowhere.

I think the free market is fabulous for creativity and gives not a single whit about people who have not figured out how to harness their own power. In fact, it denies they have any value, so this free market is ultimately sparklingly alive and a murderer.

But why I wrote all this when what I really wanted to write was something else, is completely surprising to me. I wanted to write about how it is so important to have your housing and your whole physical life figured out and settled so you can be free to be free, to have a huge free internal life. And I still believe that and it is worth writing and this was all I set out to do.

But why I wrote all that I did, beforehand, in addition to recommending having one’s housing and place on earth all figured out so one could be free, is something I did not have much control over. I felt a strong need, today, to be myself, completely unedited. And for that, this blog entry happened. It may be because I am using my body more, now that it’s spring, so I feel more grounded and happy. It may be because I insist on living on earth in the greatest joy I can find—understanding that that can only happen with a great acceptance of very little control. It may be because I have spent every spring sort of sick and weird with allergies…and strangely, when I feel sick, in addition to being a bit buzzed on low doses of Sudafed, I also feel like great things are possible, that once the ills are over, joy is there, big and strong. (I recently read that joy is the natural state of a person. That one of the great ways to experience joy is to remove pain. But that was just someone being an expert and so it is suspect.)

But I have decided that instead of worrying about knowing and not knowing and experts and dogma, I am just going to be a young thing, a soldier and a baby for joy.

And so, this blog entry is brought to you by Joy. Joy is what we are after here. But more readily, joy is what we are here. 

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