Honor What You Don’t Know

I listened to an interview with author and philosopher, Jean Vanier, in which he described the importance of ‘honoring what we don’t know.’ As I pondered that, I felt a sense of relief. It tells me there is something good and meaningful in all that I do not know. Thank heavens, because what I don’t know encapsulates a vast amount of information!

Vanier touches on how “heady” knowledge is and reminds us that being more attuned to our body and spirit has much value for our lives. He tells us that if we try to know too much, it takes us away from being present. When we are “small,” he states, this is where we most relate to others, thereby being present in a fullness that allows us to see another, no matter how they appear, and be able to be of service, to be a contribution in that moment.

When I honor what I do not know, it changes my focus from the incessant push to learn and retain more and more and more information from all over the globe, and allows me take a deep breath and know that I am enough, right now. The world and all its inhabitants clearly do not need or want the same things. Sometimes, our society relays a specific message that gets stated louder and is repeated enough to give the impression that one set of ideas is far more valuable than another. Knowledge, good grades, admission to a prestigious college—seemingly at any cost these days—is one of those messages that is loud and touted repetitively, often driving our young people into a state of despair.

We are long overdue for balance in how we grow as a people. We need re-tool our message to embrace stillness, sitting quietly and contemplating what we see around us, tuning into what draws us up and inspires us—even if it never gets graded. We are losing the soul, the heart, the deeper knowing that does not come from a book or lecture. It comes from within.

“We don’t know what to do with our own weakness
except hide it or pretend it doesn’t exist.
So how can we welcome fully the weakness of another
if we haven’t welcomed our own weakness?”
Jean Vanier

Vanier asks us in this quote to be deeply honest with ourselves. In self-honesty, we admit and reveal those parts of us that are indeed weak. When we learn to truly see our weaknesses and embrace them, it allows a river of compassion to flow within us, thereby enhancing our self-love and providing still more compassion for others.

As I reflect on self-honesty, the importance of owning my weaknesses and honoring what I don’t know, I see a gap in me that needs exploration. When I made the move last summer from California to Oregon, I was aware of how frightened I felt at times about leaving the city in which I had spent the majority of my adult life. I was familiar with the territory (no small feat as a spatially challenged woman), I was known in my professional pursuits and organizations, and most profoundly, I had several cadres of acquaintances, good friends, and deeply-joined friends with whom I had become family. Starting over as a woman in my mid-60s seemed like an enormous undertaking, to say the least. I was able to talk myself through some of these dark moments and begin to beckon my courage to guide me through my doubts and emotional turmoil.

I had a purpose, and I knew I was following a stronger calling. As the time came to actually leave, I had gained momentum and more than a little excitement about the new adventure. Although not everything went smoothly, I continued to thrive on the newness of what was before me and kept renewing my energy for each next step. Now, being just over half a year into the move, I do recognize the relief of each exhale that reveals a sense of accomplishment. I am known by several people in town; I have two organizations in which I have become a meaningful part; I know my way around for the most part (laughter abounds); and I am building friendships with wonderful people here. And it is not lost on me that when I heard the interview with Jean Vanier, tears came to my eyes as I recognized some parts of me that I was hiding—most importantly from myself.

The new dawning is that I no longer want to hide:

  • My body-aches and skin flare-ups that can’t be explained and so far, haven’t been successfully treated, are truly a nuisance, and they have me worried
  • I’m not settled yet with where to live or how to manifest “something wonderful” that will allow me to stay in one place for at least 5 years…if not the rest of my life. Haven’t found it yet, and I will be moving again this summer (arghghgh)
  • I have more than a little sadness most days with no identifiable source
  • I talk myself into holding back sharing my woes, or at least the worst of them, because I don’t think it’s right to share them with friends from CA life, because who wants to catch up with a buddy only to hear complaints?
  • And I’m not feeling quite comfortable sharing woes with new, budding friends. I ask myself, “How long do I have t wait until I can share the hard stuff and still keep my new friends?”
  • I am aware that I truly love it here in terms of weather, trees galore, gorgeous skies with creative clouds that I can’t say enough accolades for, and I absolutely adore living in a small, but not too small town (40,000)—and still, it doesn’t quite feel like home yet

I sigh with deep relief just getting these things out in the open. There may be more, but I know that revealing is a good first step. I recently found a poem by Craig Arnold called Meditation on a Grapefruit. His brisk detail and subtle humor transformed me, and helped me remember that even in the face of life’s sometimes brutal realities, not everything is dire, sometimes life is just about eating a grapefruit.

It is with admiration that I work with capable women who come face to face with injury, surgery or a difficult diagnosis. I guide them holistically to navigate the medical trauma and maneuver through the emotional mayhem so they can return to a vibrant, independent life. If you or someone you know has such a challenge, I would deeply appreciate you sending them to AuthentiCore.com to contact me to see if we are a good fit to work together.