There was a time when I’d never admit that I didn’t know something. I had a job that paid me to know things. I worked in Washington, D.C. and my job was to keep an eye on things there that would affect the people who hired me. I’d go to board meetings, give a well-prepared report, and then fend off the questions of highly educated men who prided themselves on knowing things too. Sometimes, I’d be asked a random question about an obscure issue, just so (I suspected) the questioner would seem to be the smartest person in the room. Not that the group wasn’t great and didn’t do great work – it did. But there were times when they played this little game. I’d never admit I didn’t know the answer to the far out question. I’d always say, “I’ll look into it and get back to you.” Still, that was some kind of defeat, a public little humiliation in front of my boss and the rest of the staff. I’d stew about it for days. I worked hard and didn’t deserve the game men played with me and not with my male colleagues. There were also times when I was challenged and responded grandly. My ego would rejoice for days, remembering how my questioner was silenced. What they were doing was obvious, of course, to all except me. My ego didn’t know it was a game. It thought it was war.
Why did I find it so difficult to admit I didn’t know something and why did it feel so good when I was victorious? It was because I was operating on a different scale, in a different mind-set. I was in bondage to my ego. Oh, how good it is, how liberating, to be free from the bondage of self! Of course, I was younger then. I didn’t have a fully developed set of self esteem buttons, or the experience of a psychic shift. I didn’t know how little any of us really knows. I didn’t know that to say, “I don’t know” is, when it is true, the best and the wisest of all answers.
There is an old Yiddish proverb: Man plans and God laughs. When we get up each day, we don’t know what is going to happen. It rains on our picnic. Our flight is canceled. You’re sure you know what the votes will be in the Senate when the bill comes up, but somebody plays golf with somebody else the day before, makes a deal, and the vote is changed. And you’re wrong.
Somebody you love dies unexpectedly, somebody who should have outlived you.
That’s what happened to me. That is when my big shift occurred. All shifts are not that traumatic and devastating. The signal to think again about what you know may be gentler. You may just get up one morning and realize that You Are Not In Possession Of All The Information In The Universe.
If your shift away from self is traumatic, it may take awhile for this to sink in, a while for the upheaval to settle. It took me years of reading, of studying spiritual teachers, of praying and meditating, and of practicing a new way of life – a life of surrender to Something besides myself and my perceived abilities.
If this sounds a little sad and defeating – it isn’t. It is the way to peace. It is the way to joy. If nothing else, it is a relief not to have to know everything. It is even more liberating to know nothing – to get up each day and surrender to an all-knowing, loving God. Some people call it “going with the flow.” Some people say it is surrendering to the reality of life. It is probably all of that – I don’t know.
How do I know it’s the way to peace and joy? Because that is what I experience when I let go of my hold on what I think I know, what I think I can control, and let a wiser, kinder, more compassionate Being lead me into the events of my day. What was I thinking to assume that I knew what was best for me?
Have you ever said – “Wow – this turned out so much better than I thought it would?” Or – “Gosh- I never even thought of that! This is so much better.” When that something much better happens, you can be sure that some Loving Power has taken it out of your hands, out of your plans, and given you something more wonderful than you could have invented.
And then, there are the things that you may never know, like why somebody you love dies. Or maybe you will. Maybe you will find in your searching that that soul was finished what it came to do, and that its time to go was not your decision to make, but theirs. Maybe you will find that that event changed you in ways you could never have imagined. Maybe you will find your own soul, your own spirit, in the darkest of nights when the things of this world bring you to your knees. And your soul, your spirit, will show you a new day, a new light, a new way of being. Maybe you will find peace and joy, knowing that you are cared for and loved beyond your imagination. Maybe you will understand that you, as your earth-bound, human self, do not have to know anything. Maybe all you will have to do is be aware of what is happening and understand that it is all for you, and that you are Beloved.
Maybe the missed plane crashed. I know somebody for whom that happened. Maybe your inside picnic turned out to be more fun than you thought it would. Maybe it brought you closer to someone. Maybe answering, “I don’t know” to a question is kinder to the questioner and wiser and more encouraging to those who may be watching, who also don’t know everything. Maybe recognizing that there is a Power that guides us and provides for us is the way to peace and joy.
It works for me.