the different kinds of knowing
June 3, 2010 § Leave a comment
While being upset about a certain matter and staring at the arguments in Orthodoxy (the book I’m reading), I realised what I most wanted to know.
Now, before I move on, perhaps it would be good to explain what I mean by ‘know’. There are, I think, 2 kinds of knowing. The first kind of knowing comes through rationalisation. This one, if you seek hard enough, is quite attainable. Logic is logic, and if prepositions a, b and c lead to conclusion d, then it seems you know d. You have proven it, or came across a very logical exposition of the argument leading to d. It stares you in the face.
Then, there is a second kind of ‘knowing’, one that is much more elusive, one that I think is more desirable than the first–which in my opinion comes across as a cold hard fact. I speak here of a knowing that often just hits you, like a bolt. It engages you, and you feel something for this knowledge. The hints in your surroundings which lead to this knowing may have always been there. Yet, it is common that we don’t pay much attention to them. It is like suddenly realising that your parents are old. When I think about this second kind of knowing (let’s call it realising for lack of a better term), the irony in it comes to mind. Often, the things which we need to realise are really quite simple facts.
Let’s take for example, the rather simple fact of God’s perfect love.
Now, as a Catholic, I’ve heard this repeated thousands of time. God is love, and love is his essence. That is for many of us, a taken for granted fact. I myself know this, with the first kind of knowing. But if a man were to look at my life, he would see that I don’t really know this. Knowing it in the first sense does help, but it often makes merely a small impact. But I think, if I realised (meaning know in the second sense) that God loves me, I would place all my cares in God’s hands. I would live, assured with the knowledge that everything will turn out fine because there is a loving God behind all my problems (ok, and joys). I would be praising Him night and day, walking with a bounce in my step and smiling exuberantly at just anyone who crosses my path.
What are these simple facts I really need to realise? Off my head, I think I need to realise that I’m going to die some day. I need to realise the beauty that immerses the ordinary and familiar. I need to realise that God is ever present with me.
Now I return to the beginning– as I was staring at my book, full of witty arguments, I realised that I didn’t need it…at least, I didn’t need it as much as I need to know that God was here with me in my joys and pains. For it came to mind that I was feeling pain, partly because I felt alone in the pain. It felt as if I could tell no human soul of what I was going through, as if even if I said anything I would merely be comforted with platitudes. It wasn’t enough to rationalise that Jesus is with me in all these– I wanted to KNOW.
The problem of evil came to mind.
I began to think that perhaps the problem in the problem of evil is not really that having evil in the world and having a loving God is incompatible. Evil, it is said, is the absence of good. For there to be evil, we must first know what is good. Since the presence of evil means that good necessarily exists, having evil and having a loving God are not incompatible ideas. I think, the real problem is not that God and suffering are incompatible, but that God who claims to be loving seems absent in the suffering.
My intellect says He’s here. But that is hardly a comfort. My heart needs convincing.
At the end of the day, I don’t really care about knowledge. I wonder what people who speak of the innate worth of knowledge are talking about. I could grant the innate worth of knowledge. Yet I remain convinced that the worth of knowledge is severely limited if it is not known by the heart.