Approaching Life Agnostically


The word agnostic comes from the Greek language and means “Without Knowledge”.

Specifically, when the term is applied to spirituality it is defined to mean: “A person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena.”

I’ve been meaning to learn the Greek for “knows too much”. I often feel that I’ve lost sight of the wonder of the world around me. It’s very obvious when I interact with my 3-year-old. She sees wonder in the most mundane objects. The other day she was completely mesmerized by the bandage on my finger, she had to have one of her own! It was simply the best thing ever.

In many areas my knowledge has become a liability. Knowing too much has caused me to think I understand all, I have lost sight of the wonder that is all around.

When you are learning about a topic, there is a point where you are at the right level of information to understand the object and start to use it. If you continue to dig beyond that level, you may learn more, but the value of the topic may become overwhelmed by your knowledge of the topic.

There is a point where you have the appropriate level of knowledge and digging deeper is not beneficial.

Here is an example. If you were to look at a simple tool like a spoon, you could quickly ascertain the purpose and utility of the device. You can use the spoon to eat, or shovel dirt, or do whatever you feel like. This is an appropriate, or at least practical, level of knowledge. You understand the tool and can understand it’s purpose with the information you have.

Maybe you find that you really like spoons and you start taking spooning classes. You get all sorts of new ideas about what else you can do with a spoon. Transport water, pry open lids on  jars, etc. You are learning about the utility of a tool.

Imagine, that at some point in the future, you have learned all the potential uses of the spoon and you still think it is the most wonderful invention ever. So you try to dig deeper. You start to learn about where spoons come from and spoon making. You break the spoon down to a list of materials. You may now be delving into a realm that will break the mystery. The deeper you go, the more you begin to own it. The more you began to own it, the less you wonder at it.

Often we get so wrapped up in completely understanding things, or even just wrapped up in using a tool, that we lose sight of the wonder of if all.

It’s like losing sight of the forest because you’re so focused on the individual trees.

When it comes to God I am truly agnostic, or at least I attempt to be. I have been told a lot about God over the years. Interestingly, the further I dig into any given ‘truth’, that I have been told, the more those ideas fall apart. I find that I know nothing of God. The knowledge that I do have is really suspect and usually muddies my experience of the mystery of God.

I am in favor of further study of life and God and, well you name it. I love philosophy and I want to know more. But I have also found that the more I know, sometimes leads to, lessening of experience. There is a powerful value in knowing where to stop.

There is a time to stop, accept and appreciate certain things in life without digging so deeper. If you’re not careful you can get buried in the atomic structure and miss the bigger mystery.

If we approach life with the idea that we know nothing, we are much more likely to experience life itself instead of our own idea of the thing.

Take a few moments after you read this and think about a place where you know too much. Then take a few steps back, from your massive accumulation of knowledge, and look from the trees out to the forest. See if you can recapture the wonder that pulled you into learning in the first place.




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