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September 7th, 2006


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05:18 pm - Trust and knowledge
Ecclesiastes 1:16-18

I thought to myself, "Look, I have grown and increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge." Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind.

For with much wisdom comes much sorrow;
the more knowledge, the more grief.


I miss the days when learning was a joyful thing, mounting up to heights of understanding, exulting in the broadening of my knowledge.

Not that all learning is sorrowful to me now, of course. When I was reading Brian Greene’s The Elegant Universe, about string theory and the tiny building blocks of the universe and eleven dimensions of space/time, that was pure joy. I hadn’t experienced anything like it since university. Even learning new data systems at work is a pleasant exercise of the mind. And there are times when deeper knowledge shows me not only the poison in humankind, but the wine of the grace of God--love above and beyond the call of duty, heroics from the un-heroic, redemption from the past, healing and restoration in relationships and families.

I've never subscribed to the idea that "ignorance is bliss." Better to know the truth, no matter how ugly, and face it, than to live unknowing, both blind and useless.

In that sense, that last verse resonates deeply with me. I love learning new things, understanding them, and yet the older I get the more clearly I see the ways that human beings can destroy each other, maliciously or through sheer ignorance or carelessness.

It's enough to make me want to close my eyes and stop my ears. It's like being Peter Pan.... I don't want to "grow up" if what it means is facing our petty and not-so-petty evils more and more.

And then I wonder what it is about human life that makes us, makes me, see the evil around us so much more easily than the beauty? That makes us so willing to assume the worst and question the best?

I suppose part of it is fear. If we keep in mind the bad things that are possible, then they won't take us by surprise; we won't be as hurt when goodness fails if we don't expect it.

Heh. I was going to make a seperate post about this, but I think it fits right here. The saying that "the man who trusts cannot be betrayed, only mistaken," has always bothered me. It's no answer to the question of whether trust is advisable, it just shifts the blame for wrongdoing back onto the person who, by trusting others, is trying to do good.

Why sully goodness more, when the world in general already half disbelieves in it?

God’s been trying to teach me to live in trust, not fear. It's a strange feeling, trying to learn more trust when I'm also learning more about how we can falter and betray each other.

He knows how that can be accomplished. I’m working on it.

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33


Disclaimer: I value all your thoughts, but this a very contemplative post, so don't read too much depression or cynicism into it, please. I always sound a bit like that when I talk about stuff like this. ;-)
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative

(15 lit candles | Light a candle)

Comments:


From:dafne99
Date:September 8th, 2006 02:35 am (UTC)
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Where do you think we get the saying "Ignorance is bliss"? Children live in the same world that we do, but they see it through their innocent eyes and not our jaded ones. That's why they laugh about a thousand times more in a day than their parents do. "Suffer the little children to come unto me" - if we can cast our eyes on God before we become jaded and try to live in Him and not in the world then maybe we can keep that beautiful image forever. Alas, we are all like Lot's wife and our lives turn to salt if we even glance away from God. This is not a negative view, just realistic. I believe it's possible to relearn some of that innocence, but it's very hard. Thankfully, we have a very forgiving God who loves us even when we spend too much time in the world.

Disclaimer: These comments are not stated as facts. They are merely observations from my own life stated in reaction to your post. Hopefully, they help more than the little "Hang in there" kitty poster.
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From:izhilzha
Date:September 8th, 2006 06:02 pm (UTC)
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if we can cast our eyes on God before we become jaded and try to live in Him and not in the world then maybe we can keep that beautiful image forever.

I used to think that was possible--but the innocence of a child is the innocence of ignorance, and that is something we eventually lose. I guess what I'm seeking now is the hows and whys of "grown-up innocence": I think some people would call it "holiness." The focus on God and ability and grace to love others as He does, in the midst of and despite the world around me.

Thank you--such thoughts do help more than those posters. :-D
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From:feliciakw
Date:September 8th, 2006 03:01 am (UTC)
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Just off the top of my head, without getting too philosophical . . .

And then I wonder what it is about human life that makes us, makes me, see the evil around us so much more easily than the beauty? That makes us so willing to assume the worst and question the best?

I've heard it said that Christians live their entire lives in enemy territory. Our home, our "native land," is Heaven, but we spend our lives in the world. It's hard to spend your entire life in a certain culture/country--in this case, the world--and not begin to see things the way the "natives" (those who are of the world and living in the world) do. We are ambassadors of sorts, and we must read the letters from home often and be in communication with home and spend time with others from home lest we "go native" ourselves.

Maybe that's not a great analogy, and there's much more to it than that. And I'm trying to sort through some of my own stuff, so . . .
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From:izhilzha
Date:September 8th, 2006 05:23 am (UTC)
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Well, I know you haven't seen Alias, but the analogy you give here is very much the reason I loved that show: Sydney Bristow is an intelligent, quiet, loving person, but she's a spy, too. She has to go undercover and do crazy spy things to save the world, but in the end she usually keeps herself fairly grounded to who she really is, and I admire that. I want to be able to do that, myself; know the truth and stay grounded, no matter where I'm sent and in what guise. You know?
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From:izhilzha
Date:September 8th, 2006 06:05 pm (UTC)
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Actually, I've got something to add to my previous reply. The sense of what God's been trying to teach me lately is that the life of trust isn't so much living life as if I'm in a war zone. It's not the Alias metaphor, it's more like Doctor Who: I may indeed wind up in a war zone, or a haunted castle, or a Dalek ship, but it's an adventure, and I can trust Him to figure it out and to rescue me.
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From:kerravonsen
Date:September 8th, 2006 04:28 am (UTC)
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The saying that "the man who trusts cannot be betrayed, only mistaken," has always bothered me. It's no answer to the question of whether trust is advisable, it just shifts the blame for wrongdoing back onto the person who, by trusting others, is trying to do good.

I'm puzzled that you feel that way about it -- it seems to be taking the saying in the opposite meaning to what is intended. Or maybe because the first (and only) context that I've heard that saying in was Blake's 7 (or Blake's 7 fans quoting it) so I'm wondering where you first heard it. Anyway, the context it was given in in Blake's 7 was like this:

Cally: There is a saying among my people: He who trusts cannot be betrayed, only mistaken.
Avon: Life expectancy must be short amongst your people.

The implication there is that one should trust, and rather than be devastated by betrayal, just chalk it up to one of the mistakes that happen in life, and try again with someone else. No implication of wrongdoing on the part of the person doing the trusting.
At least, that's how I always interpreted it.
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From:izhilzha
Date:September 8th, 2006 05:20 am (UTC)
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The implication there is that one should trust, and rather than be devastated by betrayal, just chalk it up to one of the mistakes that happen in life, and try again with someone else. No implication of wrongdoing on the part of the person doing the trusting.

Yeah, I understand that's the way it's supposed to come across. But the way it's phrased still bothers me; as if the act of betrayal comes back on the one who trusts, because they shouldn't have trusted that person, rather than being the responsibility of the one who actually performed the betrayal. I don't know; maybe it's just that I have a sore spot when it comes to "not knowing" things, a hard enough time trusting my own perceptions about people as it is. *shrug*

And I was rather amused to see quote re: Blake's 7, because I've run into it more than once previously (though, naturally, I can't recall exactly where right now, lol).
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From:mistraltoes
Date:September 8th, 2006 08:39 am (UTC)
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I must confess that it's always bothered me, as well, though I can't articulate the reasons clearly. Of course, like Avon, I do not trust easily. But Cally's statement seems to imply to me that you can make choices that prevent all betrayal. I don't think that's possible; the only one who'll never fail us is Christ. I think we have to be not just prepared, but willing to be failed or betrayed, because we make a decision that what we gain by trusting is worth a certain amount of pain.
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From:izhilzha
Date:September 8th, 2006 04:38 pm (UTC)
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But Cally's statement seems to imply to me that you can make choices that prevent all betrayal.

Yes, yes, yes. You've the nail on its proverbial head. That is precisely why that saying bothers me. I was trying to figure out how to phrase it, this morning, only to open my journal and see you said it for me. :-)

I think we have to be not just prepared, but willing to be failed or betrayed, because we make a decision that what we gain by trusting is worth a certain amount of pain.

Again, yes. Not just that giving trust is a correct-or-not decision, but that it's a moral choice, and embued with a certain sort of moral heroism. We know very well that pain may be waiting at the end of our choice, but be choose it because it's better to trust than not to trust; we choose it despite our knowledge, almost flaunting trust in the face of the possibility of betrayal.

If I'm making any sense at all. LOL.
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From:kalquessa
Date:September 8th, 2006 05:31 pm (UTC)
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I know what you mean. The balance between cynicism and naivete is one that I've never quite been able to strike. I'm nearly always of two minds on these subjects (I'm starting to just accept the fact that being human means living with contradictory impulses and ideas) and I used to think of my inner cynic as my Elizabeth Bennett side while my inner idealist was my Jane side. Since reading Gone With the Wind I've started thinking of them more frequently in terms of Scarlett/Melanie. :)

I think I'd like to be the sort of person who trusts and is betrayed rather than the person who never trusts in the first place. I think that's what my native personality tends toward. However, my inner cynic has gotten awfully powerful these days, and it's hard to fight the impulse to suspect everyone of dark purposes when there's so much (very real) darkness in the world these days.

You like how I comment to your post with two paragraphs entirely about myself? It's all about ME!!
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From:izhilzha
Date:September 8th, 2006 06:15 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, the balance is tough. Especially when one's brain insists on wondering not only if others might have "dark purposes" (sounds like I should be living in a fantasy novel, or the movie "Aladdin"), but if I myself might have more darkness in me than I know. Stupid brain.

You like how I comment to your post with two paragraphs entirely about myself? It's all about ME!!

Hey, I understand. It's because we're women and we like to say what we've experienced, rather than make broad sweeping strokes to "solve" everything. :-) (No offense intended to my male readers by *that* sweeping generalization! *facepalm*)
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From:kalquessa
Date:September 8th, 2006 06:21 pm (UTC)
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Exactly. If you're me, the answer to every question is a personal anecdote, possibly involving my cat, which may or may not end up being at all germaine to the problem at hand. Whereas if you're Mr. Bill, the answer to every question is to build something out of two-by-fours and bolt it to the wall.
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From:izhilzha
Date:September 8th, 2006 06:40 pm (UTC)
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Hee. It is so true.

"There are nine-and-sixty ways of composing tribal lays,
And every-single-one-of-them-is-right."

Er. Not sure how how germaine *that* is, but it's what came into my head (and there is always room in life to quote Kipling, I think).
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From:scionofgrace
Date:September 8th, 2006 09:45 pm (UTC)
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I've discovered that one sure way to see the beauty that we usually miss is to be in regular communion with God. He lends us that vision.

That said, I've learned to be wary of all "either/or" propositions. We should not worry so much about seeing either the beauty or the ugliness, but both. And to understand the place of each: the beauty reflecting God and the ugliness the curse of Hell.

When it comes to learning, it is hard when you first encounter the ugly bits of the subject you're on. But I find that eventually I can understand where they fit in the whole, rejecting them for what they are, and being able to follow the wonderful bits better.

If that makes any sense.

I'm reminded of the description of the creation of Arda in the Ainulindale, when Eru's third theme took the loudest and most triumphant notes of Melkor's discord and incorporated them into itself.
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From:izhilzha
Date:September 8th, 2006 10:36 pm (UTC)
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I've discovered that one sure way to see the beauty that we usually miss is to be in regular communion with God. He lends us that vision.

Very true. Though it's also true that knowing that and walking it out are two different things. :-)

That said, I've learned to be wary of all "either/or" propositions. We should not worry so much about seeing either the beauty or the ugliness, but both. [snip] But I find that eventually I can understand where they fit in the whole, rejecting them for what they are, and being able to follow the wonderful bits better.

I can see what you mean here, and I've found that to be more and more true as I've gotten older and grown in Christ. But sometimes, when what I'm having to learn or see is in RL around me, it's really hard to even want to try and understand the ugliness/evil. Because if I can understand it, even a little, does that mean that particular evil is part of me? And my fear-walls go up, rejecting not only the evil that I see, but also things associated with it.

That knee-jerk fear-based response is what God has been getting me to unlearn over the past couple of years, but there's still the residue left. If I stay focused on Him, what I hear has nothing to do with that--it tends to be along the lines of "I say you are holy; never let anyone tell you that you are anything less."

In fact, I'd go so far as to say that the past nine months have been ones of restoration--where He enables me to let go of fear, and receive back in its place the knowledge of the good that got swept up in the edge of the fear.

It's a journey, though; and I think making posts like this one are ways for me to mentally figure out what my heart and my spirit already know. That He is God; that I am His; that "all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well."

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