Of Knowledge, of Truth, and How to Properly Offend Someone

How can I bear the thought of living in ignorance? Yet, how often have I wished that there were things I didn’t know. Still, I almost fear the thought of being ignorance. Knowledge, I suppose is something of what they tend to call a “security blanket” for me. To know something, for me, is where I find safety. I therefore dislike the experience of being ignorant. Now, this drive for knowledge as a comfort to me, has provided a means to push me to learn, and I’m glad for that, but it does get wearying when I can leave no rock unturned, nothing unobserved. I see everything, but am too focused on learning from it to enjoy it. Things turn into obsessions, ideas get carried away, people become something to study like a mystery, or a character in a book. Yes, I learn, but at what cost? I sometimes wonder why I am not content to live in ignorance, but must seek answers to the matters that mystify me. Yet, I’m always startled, frightened even, when I find I don’t know something. I’m not sure whether my thirst for knowledge is an asset or not to me, on one hand, I enjoy most of what I learn, on the other hand, I sometimes would like to just stop, and enjoy something, without knowing what it is about. To enjoy a song without having to try and figure out what instruments are being played, what notes it is comprised of, and so forth, but to just enjoy the song as something of beauty and wonder and mystery without trying to take it apart. To see a painting, and not care whether it is oil, watercolor, or acrylic, whether it was painted on paper, canvas, or on a rock, but to enjoy it, for what it is, not what it is made of. To allow myself the element of surprise. Surprise, yes, that really, I suppose is what it is all about, surprise is something that occurs outside of my ability to predict or control it. It is a reminder that reality exist outside of my own head, and if ever I doubt my own existence, all I have to remember is that I am capable of being surprised. Sometimes surprises are pleasant, sometimes not. Surprise occurs whether I wish it to or not. Whether it is a terrible thing or a good thing, it always hits with the same sudden jolt, and my initial reaction is nearly always the same: Why didn’t I know about this?

There are things I do not know. How can I reasonably come to any other conclusion than to say that I don’t know everything. I can’t decide whether that is a relief or not. On one hand if I knew everything there ever was to know, perhaps I wouldn’t be so inclined to doubt, but on the other hand, perhaps I would, and this is actually far more likely than the first, I would doubt all the more for it. I suppose in a way, it is a gift that I don’t know everything, it makes judging from what little I do know at least a little less complicated.

I keep asking questions though, it’s almost like I’m addicted to it. For example let’s say I meet someone, I think well of them, I do not hate them, and so forth, I like them, and by a strictly technical definition of the word, it is a strictly platonic definition of the word ‘like’. However, my mind will ask me questions no matter how absurd, often ignoring the obvious in favor of the obscure, and driving me to the point of insanity in the meantime. My internal conversation might go something like: “Do you like them?” “Yes.” “Now, define the word like for me would you?” “I am fond of them, I like them, I wish them well.” “Are you sure there isn’t anything else?” “No, it’s not like that.” “I don’t believe you.” “Well it’s true.” “You’re just deceiving yourself.” “Actually, they probably don’t even remember I exist.” “All the more reason you think too much of them.” “What? It was just a person who works at the grocery store for pete’s sake! I don’t hate them, so I like them. How else is it to be explained?” Several aspects go into all that, some of them are good, some are not. It is good to examine the ideas, to ensure that they are exactly what they ought to be, but it is not good to be self-condemning, and so forth, and it is outright damaging where it isn’t needed, stirring up fear and awkwardness, and only making things much more complicated than they need to be.

Somewhere along the way, I think I’ve probably swallowed some lie about all thoughts being some ulterior motive, and that our intentions can never be ‘truly’ good. Whatever that’s supposed to mean. That we must always be out for ‘something’ and that ‘the heart is deceitfully wicked, who can know it’ applies to me. My inner voice sees to it that I don’t forget it. It doesn’t mean it is true.

While I, from what I understand about it, think positive thinking, as in that our thoughts have the ability to change physical reality around us, is absolute rubbish, and more harmful than good; I also realize that how we think of things does make a difference in our perception of that which is real, including physical reality. For my part I desire to hold as complete a realistic view as I can. Yet still finding wonder in the world, and keeping room for my imagination to create something of its own story of a better world, a dream of something being better than it currently is, if you will. It is why I can accept that horrible things do happen, yes, but also that truly wonderful things also happen.

Back to my inner conversations. Much of what torments me, is the result of something I am believing wrongly. This is why truth is desperately needed to confront these lies, because lies are damaging, even those we tell ourselves.

Of lies and of honesty, an interesting observation has been occurring to me as I’ve been attempting to be more honest and open with people: It is very freeing to be candor, to be honest, to be upfront.

This doesn’t mean being offensive. A lot of times people tend to just use the truth as an excuse to be offensive about something. There is in the human heart a vindictive streak, and we, whether we wish to admit it or not, enjoy offending people, and if we can do it by using something that happens to be true, we feel as though we are perfectly justified in offending people. No, no, no, and again, no. We are not justified, just because it’s true. In most cases it is perfectly possible to convey the same information in a manner that is not offensive, it just means we don’t get to be prideful about it. Ah, ah, this I think is the heart of the issue here, we are actually more concerned about our pride than about the truth. We want our pride validated, we don’t actually care about the truth at all.

There is a difference between being honest, being candor, being true, and being offensive. For example, it is possible to convey the information by accusation, but it is also equally possible to convey the exact same information by acknowledgement.

We are to be cunning, absolutely, but also gentle. We are not supposed to be cruel, but neither are we to be gullible, and we are not doormats either.

For my part, if I offend, I want it to be because someone dashed themselves against me, not me launching myself upon them. If I were a rock, and you were to jump on it and get hurt, it wouldn’t be accurate to say that the rock hurt you, but that you hurt yourself on the rock. If I’m offending because I’m launching myself upon them, I’m doing it wrong. By not offending, I do not mean that we tone down our message so that it doesn’t offend. I only mean that we don’t crush people with the message, because while it might be true, if used like a bowling ball, it still hurts like nobody’s business, and will not be accepted, but despised. There will always be those who launch themselves upon the rock, and if they find that it hurts, it isn’t the rocks doing. That is kind of what I mean by all this. Instead of toning down messages, we stay strong about it, but we don’t use it like an arrow against people, but like a fortress. It might be stormed, and those who storm it may find that it offends them, they can’t get through it, and what not. But all the fortress is doing is standing there. Unlike the arrow, it didn’t set out to damage, but to stand. It’s an imperfect picture and a complicated subject, but I am convinced that using truth as an excuse to needlessly wound millions of hearts is wrong.

Standing requires courage, once again, fear is an enemy here. It also requires humility, as sometimes we find we are mistaken in what it is we are standing for. We need to value the truth more than we value being right for the sake of our pride. It requires love. Our desire, and goal, in truth, should always be to hold heart of love. It requires a measure of selflessness. We can hardly love in truth, if we are more concerned about our reputation than we are concerned about the people around us, again, our pride is an enemy here. Love, however is a great antidote to pride, it is hard to be prideful if you truly love those around you. You start wanting for them to succeed more than you care about your own success in endeavors and such. Not that you want to fail, but you are more interested in seeing those around you be blessed than yourself.

For myself, I find a sense of freedom with being candor, with saying what is to be said, without holding back. Though, to be honest, I’m still learning about not holding back, and I still find I hold a lot back, nevertheless, I am hopeful to find that in the few little places I’ve tried being more open and honest, I feel an amazing freedom as a result of it. This was in itself a surprise to me, but a pleasant one.