I was asked recently if I had any wisdom to share. I think I had been talking about mindfulness or getting older or both. I think, in all honesty, the question had been posed to me half-jokingly. I am not one to claim that I am wise or possess wisdom. Hardly. But, I took the question seriously and responded with two things:
1) Be willing to admit when you are wrong
2) Be willing to admit when you don’t know something
Easy to say. Much harder to actually do. But essential, I think, to being a mature human being.
When I reflect back to some of my younger years, I cringe when I think about how defensive and full of pride I’ve been at times. How unwilling I've been in the past to admit when I’m wrong or when I didn’t know something. How this kept me from the belonging and acceptance I so desperately craved. And yet, I can see the hurt and traumatized person behind this defensiveness. And when I think about that, I'm filled with a particular kind of sadness and compassion that is hard to express.
We are funny, heartbreaking creatures, us humans. We have no idea why or how our hearts keep beating (or not…) or how our lungs fill with air without us having to consciously do anything about it. How does this all happen? How is that we are even here?
My former Zen teacher often talked about how he didn’t know how it was that his hand was moving while he talked, as he waved his fingers in the air. I thought this was nuts. I thought, c’mon, yes you do. You are moving it! Geesh, what do you take me for? But then, he kept saying it and I thought, oh…he really doesn’t know. No one really knows how this happens. Not really.
That not knowing is so interesting and alive to me.
So often we think that if we can show people how much we know, we will prove our worthiness and our belonging. But it is the not knowing - being willing to admit we don’t know something - that is the doorway to connection and belonging.
And by this, I don’t mean feigning ignorance or suppressing our knowledge or opinions. I mean something much bigger - something that can hold all of our knowledge and opinions (of which we have many) AND our not really knowing how this all happens. Not really.
I do not claim to have mastered this (ha!), by the way. I still find it difficult to admit when I’m wrong. I still make mistakes and still resist admitting when I don’t really know something.
But there is room for me to grow in this space. And that is probably about as close to wisdom as I can get. And I’m okay with that. Grateful, even. Incredibly grateful.
(What I’m listening to right now: Rosalía - Pienso En Tu Mirá)