Hands down, the most adorably captivating conversation you will ever have is with a four year old explaining anything. Whether it’s the events of the day or something they’ve recently learned – because they are fully invested emotionally in the telling of it. Their eyes get big and expressive. Their hands float and swim like fish, punctuating every detail with theatric conviction. They seem genuinely surprised by every word leaving their lips, as if pronunciation were an involuntary act. Then as they become aware of the grin spreading across your face, they either become instantaneously shy, or they become even more enthusiastic, depending upon their temperament.
O, to have such an unencumbered innocence of wonderment animating us again – but that’s not the way that growing older works, is it? Seems like as soon as we get the least bit of a handle on communication, we become subconsciously aware that if our understanding of the world doesn’t conform to a conventional knowing of the world, we can quickly find ourselves on the margins of our culture. So we learn very early on, as a social skill, that our knowing of anything must be willing to choose sides on any given topic — because not knowing is ignorance . . . and nobody wants to be known as ignorant.
So as if reading from a script, we all act out the part of the knowing, thoughtful person – either within the trappings of our educational certitude, or in our postured arrogance of believing there’s no real distinction between our personal opinions and what is actually true. This is a persistent thread of modernity running from the Enlightenment until today – predicated on the self-possessed notion that everything can eventual be explained . . . so we assume we can know whatever pops into our heads to know.
Therefore, the thought that much of life is a mystery, making the knowledge of it too far beyond our comprehension, is strictly anathema to the purveyors of the modern project . . . for those who place their faith in what they think they know. This is how the way of God confounds the wise (1 Corinthians 1:26-31) – He does not ask us to explain what we know, he only asks us to trust in him . . . with a faith foolish enough to abandon what we think we know.
In my younger days I spent a considerable amount of time filling up boxes full of the things I thought I knew, each one, an endless repository of well-informed, perfectly explainable knowledge. No doubt, on some psychological level, I was compensating for a defective self-perception — hoping no one would notice. So this wealth of boxes were carefully labeled and inventoried – at the ready, on a moment’s notice, to give proof that I wasn’t ignorant.
So what I’ve discovered of late, out of the wisdom of humbled experience, is that ignorance is truly bliss. That ignorance isn’t stupidity – stupidity is over stating what you can’t possibly know. So when I’m invited to climb into the ring and wrestle theological or political matters with someone – I just smile and think “must be nice to have the certainty of knowing so much”. This is not to say that I don’t know what I believe – I know full well what I believe and why I believe it. But lately I’ve taken to relabeling all of my boxes with the label “The Mysteries of God” — as they have belonged to him all along . . . many of which are far too wonderfully inscrutable, for the likes of me.
When in doubt — keep it simple