Soaring ignorance

Soaring ignorance.  The problem with the problematization of other perspectives is that it takes too much for granted the knowledge of our own.  As though we are quite certain of ourselves!  As though we already discern, and have a clear and steady grasp of, our own boundaries!  As though we are not ourselves full of surprises, abounding with multiplicity and diversity!  So honesty requires that we say NOT that we do not know others, but that we know neither others nor ourselves, and this knowledge as ignorance is, indeed, our life, the proper and essential activity or power of our life.

            There is knowledge enough, and any betting man would venture to place all his chips in saying that we will continue to strive for it and claim it, that we will most probably carry knowledge into the future as a cherished endowment, as other living beings, any living beings, nay, all existing things, tend to promote their own horizons and secure borders of insight and value or meaning for themselves, and in this age-old way craft knowledge, as it were, in order to make life in its fulness, which is a chaos of such perspectives or interpretations, more manageable, more livable and fit for the future–in order to make them more sustainable and to enhance them, adding to both their preservation and their growth.  Human beings surely are not the only ones to make such claims, though we have a special way of making the claims, our language, of which we are proud enough, perhaps proud beyond what this capacity deserves.  No, human beings are only one composite of many, indeed infinite, composites, attempting to cast its net as far and wide over all things in order to secure its own position.  It has even come to the point that the philosopher, this mighty example of the human being and the questioner par excellence, would come to make an issue out of other perspectives, saying of them that they might all be chimeras.  Like a last ditch effort to minimize the threat of other lives in the arena of life, to make the mountain, as well as the stars, the bird, the bat and the slug, elements within a human image, elements of our science, elements of our care, elements of our world.  Surely for the ant the world is all ant-like, comically ant-like through and through, as for the stars it is all gas and fire, and for an elephant all elephantine.  It is no wonder that, when faced with the horrendous expanse of what is not itself, a life, an existing thing, pulls back in order to find in all things, or turn all things into, faithful-reflecting mirrors of itself, mirrors of its God, of its heaven and earth, reflections of its goal, confirmation for it of what makes its life worth living.  We are not the only ones to scurry off into our holes when the shades and wondrous-threatening colors of giant feet come stomping down all around us.

            But there comes a time, when the picture begins to blur and smudge because too much other flesh and stone has run its fingers and coarseness over it, when the other pokes his head into the same, when he is all too vibrant and real but oh so other, when life becomes too strong, too much of a force itself as a collection of forces or endless war of forces, to be contained in some concept of it, however flexible or general, however encompassing, and knowledge of ignorance, knowledge as ignorance, of others as well as of ourselves, becomes our truth and our work for a true esteeming of living overall.  Ignorant as it is, of itself as well as of others, this knowledge is still knowledge, but of a special sort.  It is knowledge of permeability, obstacles and opportunities for incorporation on all sides, knowledge of a vulnerability of any exterior as well as any interior, but this vulnerability being, again, our honesty, our truth, our facing the truth of existence truthfully.  Such lack of certainty, such painful uncertainty, reveals, it discloses more and better than any of our attempts at well-managed boundaries ever could, the way of things, de rerum natura.  For, in its history, nothing is sure of itself.  The human being, in its comparatively brief history, compared to history itself, the human, for example, has been as much bird or bison, bear or bat or bulky boulder, as it has been human.  This history, in other words, is not always a contest and an out-performing or a shutting out, but can modulate itself into a fellowship and an intimacy.  The thing, human or otherwise, might very well imagine itself as intimately related to all other things.

            Such is a naive intimacy or fellowship, though, and we must, as it were, make our way from that naivete, travel through a period of hard-won borders and secureness, and arrive at another, more mature, more mature because fuller, form of intimacy.  Such is the love, the intimacy and fellow-feeling, of Nietzsche’s Overhuman, this man or this woman, this over-what-we-used-to-be, seeing all the earth’s history as his or her or its own, managing to relate that far without breaking down into bitterness, or breaking down–how could it not break down?–only as an episode of its beauty, which is undeniable.

            So the next time a bird flits by at day or a bat flits by at night, we could very well say to that flying being, that soaring composite, over our heads, We do not know you–yet.  It is no surprise that we do not know you; after all, you fly, or soar or flit above us, while we are stuck here on the ground with our own lines and planes.  But sometime we will, with a knowledge, a full knowledge, of the ignorance of you, but ignorance in a new modulation.  Ignorance not afraid to reach out, ignorance that doesn’t woefully and immaturely shut itself away behind its own doors and windows, an ignorance with courage enough to become all things–ignorance that dives beneath the human but then soars, up, over and above the human.

Lieh tzu walked on the air because he became one with the dust

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