The Experience of Knowing/or Not

For some unknown reason, today, looking at the tenuous iris growth and thinking about hope, as in I hope it doesn’t freeze again, led me to remembering another oft-repeated phrase, “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” Attributed to Aquinas and medieval convoluted arguments, it points to an unknowable quality. In other words, I’m wondering if the ability to know what one can change and what one must accept is unknowable in concept and only knowable in experience. Like whether or not we’ll have another freeze.

The experience of knowing what I can change and what I can’t has often been a slow process for me. I can’t even begin to count the times I have, metaphorically, stood in front of an unmovable wall and banged my head against it until my head hurt and I had to stop. Many times, after a rest, I’d return to banging my head as if I could somehow, with the force of my will, made a difference.

Reminds me of the old joke: Doctor, it hurts when I push right here…Well, don’t push there.

But I also know it has taken practice to learn when more effort is required and when effort is futile. When is “surrender” like “giving up” and when is it “letting go?” Where is the balance point? That place of dancing but not forcing?

I suspect the answer is more in the doing than in the theorizing, more in the personal than in the general. At least, it is for me. I can read and learn and theorize and ponder, but I can only find my balance point in doing and in attention to experience.

Peace is an experience; trust – or lack of trust – comes from experience; pain – or healing – comes from experience. It also seems that the only way we can find that-which-we-call-Holy is through experience (and breathing…breathing helps!).

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4 thoughts on “The Experience of Knowing/or Not

  1. Theresa Hupp says:

    “I’m wondering if the ability to know what one can change and what one must accept is unknowable in concept and only knowable in experience.”

    Janet,
    I’m really going to have to think about this line!
    I spend a lot of time with the serenity prayer. What a mystery it becomes, if the wisdom to know the difference between what we can change and what we must accept is in fact unknowable. Even if this is true, the mystery doesn’t obviate our need to seek wisdom — it only makes it more of a challenge requiring more grace.
    Theresa

    1. Janet Sunderland says:

      Interesting word, “wisdom.” It’s a concept. We can pray for wisdom but doesn’t wisdom come through experience? Sometimes, rarely, we get a glimpse of wonder in an ah ha moment, but usually, concrete experiences make us wiser. It’s experience that teaches and helps us understand – not a concept. “The wisdom to know the difference” comes from the experience of trying and failing, and getting up and doing it again. Hopefully in a different manner. That’s what I meant as “knowable in experience.” And yes, it’s still a mystery. Thanks for the discussion!! And Happy Palm Sunday!

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