“Never mistake knowledge for wisdom. One helps you make a living; the other helps you make a life.” ~ Sandra Carey
There is knowledge, and then there is knowing.
Knowledge is finite. It is the facts of life: a butterfly has two wings; Earth is round; the sky is blue. Knowledge has defined edges, beginnings and endings, a specific this is it; it is information the mind grasps in completeness… until it doesn’t; for our understanding of things evolves. One day we live in a geocentric solar system, and then the next day it is the sun, not the Earth, the planets revolve around. One day our knowledge informs us that we must spank children. The next day this is considered cruel. Like a monkey, we swing from one narrow vine of knowledge to the next, holding on until we have the desire or courage to release our familiar grip and reach new understanding.
While knowledge is definite, an it, knowing is fluid, an ing. It is here and there and everywhere all at once, rather than in the confines of our limited personal mind. Like the wind, it blows through us unexpectedly and without us having any clear sense of its source, its cause. A sudden gale of insight, gust of creativity, blast of concern that in no way can be made sense of by the facts of life. Mysteriously, this inexhaustible universal knowing mind exhales itself through us and is then gone, leaving perhaps only a chill, a resonance, a trace, a reminder of its presence.
Outer versus inner sourcing
Knowing is felt within, also known as felt-sense or gut feeling. Yet knowledge is thought up from the external world. A fluffy flying creature is what we collectively call a “bird”; a thin green substance of water and lignin rising from the ground we arbitrarily label “grass”; 2 + 2 = 4 because “4” is what we are told; it’s what we read in books and see on the TV.
Knowledge is accumulated from the outside in, and we can control how much and what kind enters our mind. Over time the database that is our mind is increasingly filled with information, the arbitrary “facts of life”.
Knowing, on the other hand, like wind, cannot in any way be gathered, controlled or held. It cannot be targeted or gotten, for, unlike knowledge, it is not quantitative; it does not derive from finite objectivity, numbers and details. Rather, like the fluid and subjective experiences of imagination, dreaming and wonder, knowing has its roots in the immeasurable, qualitative and mysterious realms within. Spontaneously, it finds us from the depths of uncertainty, often when we are relaxed and open, when we make room for it with our breath, and often without forewarning. Sometimes to our delight, and often to our dismay.
Knowing beyond knowledge
“Listen to your heart. Even though it’s on the left side, it’s always right.” ~ Unknown
Somehow we know that we must stay in our relationship despite all the struggles and logical reasons to leave. We know there is danger in the other room, the one we cannot see into from where we are, the danger we have no knowledge of but sense somehow. We know we have to pull the car over for someone without any knowledge of who they are or why we feel this impulse. Somehow, we just know!
We know we must continue blindly stepping forward into our purpose even though money is running out and everyone around us thinks we are unreasonably impractical and caught in fantasy thinking. Knowledge about our poor financial status places our defiant and persistent knowing in the clear light of scrutiny. Those who care about us corroborate these ostensibly dire pragmatic details with their own grasped knowledge of “how things are and ought to be” as expressed through their regular admonishments of our pie-eyed decision-making.
But in our heart quietly burns courage and trust. A faint knowing knows what knowledge has no way of knowing. Beyond our thinking mind and in our cells and bones we feel our inner mandate to dream and live boldly, a mandate our knowing tends to that cares less about the details of the temporal world and more about adventuring into the mystery of our soul and soul’s path. Intuitively we sense that our knowledge-driven family and friends cannot, for now, resonate; they can’t feel that while knowledge may help us build our wings, only knowing tells us where and how to fly, and it is flying that we most long for, not building.
And so we continue onwards trusting this knowing, moving forward with irrational optimism that dumfounds our seasoned knowledge and those well-intentioned family and friends who witness our incomprehensible journey. And with each step we take our knowing only grows stronger, leading us further into our heart, into the mystery.
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature.” ~ Helen Keller
The interplay of knowledge and knowing
“Knowledge by itself is dry. But knowledge is watered by contemplation, even by simple reflection, and becomes a living seed that eventually flowers and bears surprisingly rich fruit.” ~ Wald Amberstone
Knowledge and knowing long to play together. In fact, for humans to live joyful, healthy and productive lives they must act in consort, rather than separately.
Knowledge is only useful to the degree that knowing guides it. Disconnected from the human heart and inner wisdom, knowledge is simply dry head-based myopic information that further separates humans from their hearts, and from the hearts of others. Knowledge, while useful, alone cannot properly serve. Without knowing captaining the ship of humanity, we will run into fiercer and fiercer storms of industrial waste, corporate greed, stress and illness, and perhaps even be forced to the bottom of the sea. We will continue letting fear and hatred manage our growing database of knowledge.
Knowing, being the emissary of the heart, is meant to put knowledge to good use, sprinkling it with wisdom and loving nudges, ensuring that mathematics, biology, physics, engineering, government, technology and all other fields of human information carry the fragrance of the unseen. Only then, when head serves heart, and knowledge puts its faith in the unquantifiable, mercurial nature of the soul, does our planet have a chance.
More knowledge is not what the world needs right now, certainly not without equal gains in wisdom. Knowledge without knowing is dangerous, as world affairs increasingly tell us.
Infusing education with heart
“Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.” ~ Oscar Wilde
In particular, this interplay between knowledge and knowing must now be considered within our education systems. How much do we teach knowledge versus draw out knowing? Prioritizing the former entrenches children into identification with their thinking mind and migrates them away from the feeling body. Yet, by being genuinely curious about their inner knowing, children are encouraged to stay connected to, and express the heart / body wisdom they are so naturally settled into when born.
We need children growing up trusting their inner authority rather than blindly granting power to external authorities of information. We need empowered teens and adults with a strong internal locus of control willing to imagine and create new life-giving products and systems, rather than having a habitual external locus of control that weakens them and their creativity over time, and causes anxiety and depression.
“In a research study published a few years ago, Twenge and her colleagues analyzed the results of many previous studies that used Rotter’s Scale with young people from 1960 through 2002. They found that over this period average scores shifted dramatically—for children aged 9 to 14 as well as for college students—away from the Internal (locus of control) toward the External end of the scale. In fact, the shift was so great that the average young person in 2002 was more External than were 80% of young people in the 1960s. The rise in Externality on Rotter’s scale over the 42-year period showed the same linear trend as did the rise in depression and anxiety.” ~ The Decline of Play and Rise in Children’s Mental Disorders | Peter Gray, Psychology Today
“Are we forming children who are only capable of learning what is known, or should we try to develop creative and innovative minds?” ~ Jean Piaget
The creativity and innovation the world needs comes from the dynamic sparks of inner knowing first and foremost, not knowledge; from the mysterious and infinitely imaginative spaces that underlie and give rise to all the wildly beautiful natural forms of the cosmos. We must therefore do everything in our power to draw out the rich resources native within each child that wish to fly free from their bursting heart.
The etymology of education comes from the Latin “educere”, meaning to “draw out”.
Teaching knowledge is not the problem. Not drawing out the inherent wisdom, imagination, purpose and gifts that arise naturally from the heart is. As we learn to draw out knowing from children we will naturally refine what is necessary knowledge to learn and how to teach it. The wisdom of our knowing will guide us. Until then, knowledge will be made master and children will be expected to master knowledge, the quantifiable, at the cost of their immeasurable spirit.
“It’s better to know how to learn than to know.” ~ Dr. Seuss
We can only encourage children to trust and express their knowing to the degree that we trust and express our own. The unconscious limits we have placed on ourselves will undoubtedly leak out onto our children at school and home. Our limits become theirs; our fears define the edges of what is possible for them.
Practice and courage
“May my mind come alive today… to break the dead shell of yesterdays, to risk being disturbed and changed.” ~ John O’Donohue
With practice and courage we can drop down from our heads into the mysterious nature of our inner knowing, the unknown that is our heart; we can breathe into our deeper Self inviting its breath to find our own, and guide our decisions with its wisdom.
But this departure from knowledge-dependence will mean leaving the safe and comfortable shores of certainty we are accustomed to. For knowing will most assuredly point you in different directions from the ones that knowledge has always upheld. Knowing will call you to question your knowledge deeply and regularly, to hold it lightly, and ultimately, to release the vine altogether. That empty palm will then become receptive to the knowing, the heart wisdom, that you have longed for far more than the temporal information you’ve been inculcated with since young.
Gradually the dream will break, and with each crack formed in the veil of knowledge the voice of the unseen universal wind will find you. And from those growing empty spaces that knowledge once filled gardens can be planted, ones full of sweet fragrances your soul has longed to share and the winds have longed to spread.
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Check out Vince’s book: Wild Empty Spaces ~ Poems for the Opening Heart