09 June 2011

I Don't Know Why

One of my favorite songs comes from Shawn Colvin, and it starts out “I don’t why the sky is so blue.”  I love the simplicity of the line, and I love the idea behind it–that we don’t necessarily need to know why the sky is so blue.  It simply is, and it’s beautiful that way, isn’t it?  There are many things in life that I just want to accept as they are and enjoy.  I don’t need to explain them, to analyze them, to change them, or even to think about them too much.  They are as they are, and that’s fine.

Knowing about things is fine, too.  I know why and how leaves change their colors in autumn, and that knowledge is interesting to me when I see autumn foliage.  On the other hand, that knowledge does absolutely nothing to deepen the feeling I get when I come across a stand of trees that has changed colors and that sits brilliantly in the sunlight under blue skies on a crisp, clear autumn day.  I don’t need to know anything about the scene when I see it; I simply feel the amazement that such a view creates inside of me.

Sometimes I get the feeling that many of us are drowning in information.  We have access to information at levels unprecedented in human history, and few of us have slowed down enough from the gathering and organizing of such information to consider the possibility that we have too much information.  Is all that we know helping us, or is it hurting us?  Could we be spending the time that we spend on information focused on something more valuable to us, such as developing our spiritual lives, our prayer lives, or our relationships with others?  For some people, the more information the better–but they don’t ever step back to consider that they may be using their information-gathering as an escape from more pressing matters such as knowing themselves, their spouses, their children, or their siblings better.

Sometimes it doesn’t matter a bit if we don’t know why or how something happens, or how something is made.  When all is said and done, after all, there’s simply far too much to know in this world as it is for one lifetime.  There’s no way that we can know everything, so why do so many of us try to do so?  There are many things in this world that I never will know, and that’s fine with me–I don’t have to know about them.  There are many people who do know about them, and I’ll leave them to know their field, and I’ll try to focus on getting really good in my fields.

As a teacher, it’s been somewhat difficult for me to accept that there are many things that I’ll never know.  I like explaining things to my students.  I sometimes feel bad when I can’t explain them.  But now I also like saying “I don’t know,” and referring them to a source where they can find answers to their questions.  I don’t need to know everything, even if I am a teacher.

Knowledge is great when I’m taking tests, when I need to explain something to my students, or when I want to make myself look good in a social setting.  But it’s not always necessary.  Do I need to know why sunsets get so colorful in order to enjoy them?  No, I don’t.  Do I need to know why a baby’s laugh makes me smile whenever I hear it?  Nope.  Do I need to know the aerodynamic principles involved in a butterfly’s ability to fly in order to marvel at the beauty of its flight?  No way.  These things simply are, and they are marvelous, and they make my life richer even if I know absolutely nothing about them.

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