Monday, June 01, 2009
Wisdom and Knowledge
I slept long and hard last night, as if fighting off death. A cold incoming, worn exhaustion from weeks of work and a long weekend program. My arm and upper back, which have been injured and off for weeks now, despite chiropractors, yoga and acupuncture, settled in so I could finally rest. Woke up after 8 hours, decided it wasn't enough and went back for 3 more.
When I woke up, this idea popped into my head: "Wisdom is lived Knowledge." I kept thinking about this elusive line the visiting teacher at the Shambhala Center said on her Friday night talk: "Whenever I am anxious, I ask myself what it is I am not looking at." When I heard that line, in the context of her talk, it seemed like magic, a key in a large iron door, swinging open something it seemed it would take 10 men to push. Just like that. Open. Clear. Knowing. She wasn't just showing that she knew this, had experienced it, but that I could suddenly see, yes, that is what one should do. I understood it. I even told it to a couple of friends and as I recounted it I began - not to doubt it, but to understand it LESS. My heart turned it into manipulated fodder: "Use This Against Yourself," it intoned. "What is it you're not looking at? Anxiety comes from looking at too much!" I couldn't seem to reconnect with the flash, the Wisdom of the Knowledge I know was there - I don't doubt her or the truth of her statement, I don't doubt I understood then, I just can't seem to find the connection.
Or can I? Depression, a week-long companion last week, seems to have dissipated and left no forwarding address for now. It's a tender amnesty, quiet and without hassle. Maybe, after all, this is what she meant. "Look at what is not there," maybe she was really saying "Open to the space."
So that's what I have been wondering about, in a surface-level very sweet and curious way, without pressure. What is this difference, between Knowing something and feeling the Wisdom of it? My intuition says that to know something is to have read it in a book, hear it, maybe even memorized it. But to have wisdom is to have experienced it. Wisdom is bone-deep. You cannot become wise about something without having lived it. Yet, wisdom isn't necessarily preferable. It's not an either/or. I have lived through a lot of tough, weird shit for someone my age, and I still have a lot to learn. Wisdom comes from the same place as confusion, and can easily turn on the edge of habit into a bad track record. Knowledge without wisdom can become too edgey and without heart, fundamentalistic, overly rational.
What strikes me as funny is that neither of these seem solid. One day I can write an essay about how much my UGH turns to an AHA - a real AHA a wisdom-based one, and the next the pain underneath, the pain the UGH churned out still needs to drain. Neither Wisdom or Knowledge is any kind of cure. I am not sure there is a cure. Today, I am ok with that.