“D” is for Not-Knowing


“D,” * is for Not-Knowing

When I was in elementary school, we used to say, “Duh!!” when someone said something obvious; to mean, “Everyone knows that already!”

It isn’t just the saying which lingers; it’s the tone it came in….The one which activates shame; the shame of not-knowing already….And, in that, to mean, “You are STUPID because you don’t already know!”

When I was first adopted, I barely understood English and knew almost nothing about “American culture”. 1973 was before the term “multiculturalism” was part of mainstream thought or lexicon. Therefore, for my well-intended but unaware Caucasians parents, the understanding in adopting me was that I had to be “Americanized.” This meant my being thrown into Western culture was a privilege and, therefore, a wanted-outcome. Thus, any inability to adapt or conform to its rules, both implicitly and explicitly, was due to “not trying hard enough” or “pure willfulness”….Which needed being punished and forcefully removed.

Needless to say, many lessons in pain and, consequently, resulting suffering which came from not understanding what I had done wrong when I just wasn’t able ….With “wrong” and its accompanied punishments, a groove was carved for the correlation of not-knowing with stupidity and shame.

My version is inter-racial adoption. You will have your own. In any of them, it isn’t hard to see how not-knowing becomes a really scary and dis-easeful place to be. And,  consequently, how most of us then will do anything to get away from it — including variations such as denying its existence or ridiculing others when it seems like they don’t know (due, likely, to thinking that their not-knowing is somehow contagious and/or reflects onto oneself as also not-knowing.)

Then, we come into contact with Zen — where not-knowing is talked about a lot. I would go so far as to say it’s valued and cultivated. Perhaps we could even say the ability to be able to be with not-knowing is “a Zen state”? To be able to hold a question…..not necessarily for an answer (though there’s no need to reject one if it arises) but to be right there in the midst of not-knowing; which means to be comfortable in the uncertainty of not-knowing. When we can access and know this, then the deep silence inside of it all is where we can rest.

And where, possibly, the stories of our lives, having lost none of their historical importance, don’t weigh us down anymore.

May all beings be free from harm and the causes of harm.

* Yes, “D,” (with a comma). When I took the “B” and that HK quote for the earlier post, I saw the “D” with the comma and “Duh!!” was the correlation which arose; so yes, “D,” is intentional.


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