The dance of unknowing and then knowing
I am realizing that there is a new dance step which I am observing all around me in so many different areas of my life right now. I am calling it “the dance of unknowing and then knowing.”
We are not responsible for what we don’t know. That sounds like an easy statement and yet everything is complicated. I’ve been reflecting on how we are not responsible for what we didn’t know and yet how we become responsible when we are offered a chance to grow and learn.
This may sound a little vague or overly philosophical and yet I think it is an important ethical consideration for our times, for we are living in an age in which we are constantly being exposed to other people’s experiences and in that exposure we learn the ways that we may have diminished the experiences of others without knowing it. We spend a lot of energy in this ongoing dance, especially energy spent feeling guilty about past actions in that time of Unknowing.
Here is what I think. That while making amends for past wrongs may be important and that certain wrongs, especially those done over time, may require amends or reparations, we also need to move forward from our new places of knowing. Guilt and shame are not emotions that open us up to new ways of being. They make us defensive and in our defensiveness less able to learn and change so that we continue in our old ways which harm others. My mother’s generation called it having our “consciousness raised,” and my daughter’s calls it “being work”—whatever you call it, once equipped with new knowledge, we need to have it inform our actions. Me personally, I am glad to do the spiritual work of making amends where I can and I will make mine without guilt and shame for those times when I didn’t know something, because now I do.
This dance of unknowing and knowing, the waltz of accountability, the ever-expanding spiral of human knowing is one of the amazing things about being a human being, always able to learn as long as life and breath grace our beings.
For this I am grateful.