Not knowing and curiosity
The twelfth component of spiritual health is not knowing and curiosity. This afterall is what the word “faith” means. Faith is not belief and not knowing. If we know, we have no need for faith because we have certainty. Nothing kills faith quicker and more easily than certainty. When it comes to God and the transcendent there is no place for certainty.
On the other hand, curiosity is wonderful, enjoyable, opens us up to all kinds of possibilities. Not knowing, and knowing that one does not know, is the hallmark of humility, and reverence, and awe. Socrates taught that the hallmark of wisdom is knowing that one does not know. We learn as we get older that we but witness the shadows on the wall of Plato’s cave. As St. Paul says, we look through the glass dimly.
When we are sixteen we know everything. In each decade of life, as it progresses, we become more and more humble and recognize how little we know. Least of all, do we know ourself. We don’t know from where we have come, what we are doing here, or where we are going. These existential questions fill many people with terror. The anxious and fearful grab on to any promise of happiness and certainty offered. They cannot withstand any more uncertainty in their lives and there are plenty of charlatans who stand ready for a buck, for power, for status and prestige willing to give them the answers. People are more than willing, even grateful, to surrender their sovereignty and give their power away.
It takes courage and bravery to live with uncertainty, to give it up and admit not knowing, and to engage with the existential questions with an attitude of curiosity. Not knowing is not only a sign of wisdom but a sign of spiritual health. Life is a journey in pursuit of truth and meaning, a pursuit which never concludes here on the ego plane until our body dies. Then who knows?
The choice is simple. Do we put our faith in certainty or uncertainty. There is a slogan, “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” There is a bar card which reads, “If you think you know what you are talking about, you are full of bull shit.” As we advance in spiritual health, we put our faith in curiosity and not knowing and eschew those who would profess certainty.