Why I Know so Little

As a young scholar I said trite things like, “We learned about Calvinism today,” and “I studied relativity last week”.

It turns out that Calvin’s voluminous Institutes inspired commentaries, opinions, and reactions to fill hundreds of thousands of papers, books and ministries.  It also seems that papers and experiments pursuing all Einstein laid out amount to untold billions of dollars.   Trillions if you count weapons.

I barely caught an introduction.

It helps, though, if someone reduces it for me, so I pass a short quiz or pay for a short course and skip the quiz.  In a world influenced by academia: I “learned it”.

We memorize Kubler Ross’ stages and think we know death.  We say amazing silliness like, “I got married last night!”  No, you took a first, possibly easiest step in a journey of a thousand miles and you don’t “know” marriage until you come to the end of yourself and your failings and she somehow, amazingly decides to travel on with you.

“I bought a house last week.”  So, you paid cash?

“We were in New York last month.  I love New York!”  Yes, you love the tiniest sliver, and even those who love her a lifetime cannot live a thousandth of the City.

In seminary, I was thrilled to “learn” the word for “know” is the same as a husband and wife enjoying their most intimate times together that they share with none others.  You scratch the surface of that knowing in a decade or so.

I need humility, and out of that a bent to life long learning: in this life and the next.  I know that.

Access to Me

I resisted buying a cell phone.  The car was one of my last refuges from people.  

I bought one, and moved to a “smart” phone soon after.  

Now I have to decide when to leave it in the truck when I get home so I won’t answer it.  I leave it in the charger so that the battery will last when I go to bed at night.  It is no different from when I was a student.  If I chose a table in the main part of the library to study, I knew I was open to socializing.  It was the code.  I have spend plenty of non-productive hours in the library.  

I then learned to find great hiding places where I worked when I chose to focus, and amazing things followed.  The only difference is that the “preserve” around solitude used to be much greater, if that makes sense.  With a phone in your pocket, bike pack, back pack or purse, the “preserve” is as small as your personal interaction zone.  Small.  

WITH that I have noticed an image coming in through sci-fi and other sources: the hive or interconnected mentality where one participates in the inmost thoughts of thousands.  It was in the Borg in Star Trek, it will come again in Card’s vision for the enemy in Ender’s Game.  

Think about it.  We have this desire (many of us) to share intimacy, to share ourselves with others (Facebook, Pinterest, all the new sites) and we think it may be possible somewhere out there. 

Christians found something as close as humanly possible in the beginning of Christianity and coined a word for it — koinonia — the concept of fellowship that is intimate and powerful.  

So how do you balance the two?  The thirst for some solitude and some sense of belonging to others and possibly to something big?  I don’t know a lot, but I know that both take work.  Both demand time.  

Both are worth it.  And my saying that may be an almost unconscionable grace.  I am grateful if it is.