Godtalk: What can I know?

POST BY PKnott

What Can I Know a word cloud
Word Cloud

Given the speed and change in our world today,  the increasing specialization and fragmentation inside higher education, and the ever-increasing complexity of our lives, we may find ourselves wondering just how much we really know. What can we know amongst all the complexity and sophistication of our world?

Well, we can know our own light, our own moral centre. Ultimately we can know what's most real and most precious to us and this is the most important knowledge of all. Next to such knowledge as we have of God, knowledge of our own light, of our own moral centre, is the most important thing we will ever know. Indeed knowing our own centre is intimately bound up with knowing God.

This is something we need to highlight today because so many forces around us and inside us conspire to deflect us from being awake and attentive to our own deepest centre, that is, from being in touch with who we really are. It’s difficult to act out of our real centre rather than acting out of popular opinion, fashion, fad, or out of some concept of ourselves that we've taken in from others around us.

Often our attitudes and actions do not really reflect who we are. Rather they reflect who our friends are, the newspapers and websites we've read recently, and what newscasts and talk shows draw our attention. Likewise we often understand
ourselves more by a persona that may have been handed to us even as children, by our family, our classmates our colleagues, or our friends than by the reality that's deepest inside us.  ‘You’re bright, You're stupid! You're selfish! You’re too timid, You’re clever, You’re slow’, and so on.

So the challenge is to be more attuned to our own light, to our own moral centre, to be more in touch with what's most real and most precious to us. No small part of that is the challenge to resist  picturing ourselves and acting out of an unreal image we've formed of ourselves.

If that happens, both our compassion and our indignation become selective. We will praise certain people and things and be incensed by other people and other things not because these speak to or speak against what's most precious inside us, but because they speak to or against our image of ourselves.    

How might we think of ourselves in a way so that any unreal image we absorbed in childhood might no longer hold us captive as adults, so that we are strong enough not to let a simple criticism or a small betrayal  upset us?

There are no easy answers to this, but awareness of the problem will alert us to check how authentic our reactions really are in everyday life.

Peter Knott SJ