Mantra for the Day: You Can’t Know what You Don’t Know

I sometimes wonder if I have gotten what I have deserved in life (for better or worse).  I don’t know that karma has either granted me gifts or come back to bite me.  I do know that making what seemed like the right decisions at the time has not always paid off.  And, vice versa. Life is funny that way.

My being atheist is a very small part of who I am.  But, it does shape the way that I see the world and the way that I make decisions.  I work hard to be reasonable and not to allow my emotions to cloud my judgment.  I run in the opposite of direction of “magical thinking” and superstitious ideas.

Karma is a bit of a superstitious notion anyway and not really in concert with my worldview.  But, it sounds really good.  So, at times, I do like to entertain the idea that perhaps it exists.  The evidence, however, leads me to believe that  our lives are completely random.

It’s chaos, really.

Where is the order?  How does this all work?  How do we get from Point A to Point B in life?  What does it all mean?  How do we stay on the right  track when we are having trouble even figuring out the destination?

I don’t know.  And, neither do you.  So, stop pretending.

My husband is big on the idea that we get what we deserve in life and that our decisions directly affect our outcomes.  This is tough for me to swallow. I don’t know that decisions get made in life as much as things just happen and we are all along for this nutty ride.  But, I am OK with either.  I know, for a fact, that there is no puppeteer upstairs, though.  Guess what?  That is OK too.

We simply cannot, and do not, have all of the answers.  We are not in complete control of our lives, no matter how desperately we wish that we were.  It is not something that we get to negotiate.  Even a religious person would agree with that.

But, what controls our lives?

Some would say God.  I would say circumstance, luck, culture, your environment and a wide array of factors that are completely out of a person’s control.  We do get some say.  We can set our feet in a certain direction.  But, we can’t steer around every curve and see around every corner.  There are cliffs that we will surely fall down and roadblocks all along the way.

Whether this is God, or this is circumstance, is really irrelevant in regard to deciding how to live your life.  The only downside to my viewpoint is that there is  no father in the sky making sure that it all works out.  That could be an upside, as well, depending on your way of seeing things.

expect nothingappreciate everything

But, the one old cliche that gives me hope when I am feeling lost is a favorite quote of my late father’s…

“You can’t know what you don’t know.”

It applies to pretty much every situation in life and can be a motivator or a reminder to chill out.  It can be used to celebrate success or lessen the blow of rejection.  The sentence sends a powerful message that most of us humans just don’t like. It’s scary.

We are not all-knowing, omniscient beings.  We are not magical and we do not have psychic powers.  There are simply things that we cannot see or understand.  Maybe, we will come to understand one day.  Maybe, we won’t.

The point is not in the not knowing, but in the acceptance of that fact.  The moment that you can acknowledge that you can’t know something, because you have not learned it yet!, is a freeing moment.

Of course, it applies to school and work and successful careers and good grades and so on.  But, it also applies to the every day lunacy of this crazy roller coaster ride we call life.  I cannot know what will come next.  I cannot.  I can predict.  But, that is all. I have never raised 2 sons to adulthood, so I cannot possibly know that I am doing it right.  

I can’t know. I can’t know. I can’t know. 

This is a mantra I must recite to myself when it comes to many things – mostly, however, work and parenting.  I try to focus on the things that I do currently know.  I know currently that both of my sons are in great schools and seem to be happy and healthy.  I know currently that I have made a real job out of freelance writing and editing.  I know that my husband and I are trying hard to build a great life.

to live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.

But, I do not know how any of those things will turn out.  It is possible that nothing could turn out as we had expected.  It is possible that they will turn out better.  But, it is possible that they will turn out worse. I can’t know if my husband and I are making all of the best decisions now because these decisions are being made by us for the first time.  There is no way.

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