Byron Katie: “I don’t know” is a lot of freedom

“I don’t know” is a lot of freedom

– Byron Katie

There is a lot to explore in these types of quotes.

I DON’T KNOW

It’s accurate that I don’t know. I don’t know anything for certain.

Any story is more or less accurate in a conventional sense. They fit the data more or less well.

Even if they seem relatively accurate, they highlight some features and leave a lot out.

They always come from a certain perspective and worldview. And there are inevitably many other perspectives and worldviews that make as much or more sense. Some would make as much or more sense to us now if we knew about them. Some may make as much or more sense to us in the future, with a bit more experience. And some of these would even turn our perception upside-down and inside-out.

Stories are different in kind from what they are about. (Unless they happen to be about mental representations). And that means they are inherently imperfect in terms of capturing anything in its fullness or in a very accurate way.

Reality is always more than and different from any map. (Any story – any mental representation whether it’s a mental image or words – is a map).

Stories cannot hold any final, full, or absolute truth. That’s not their function.

Any story I have about the world is provisional and a question.

It’s here to help me navigate and function in the world.

That’s why it’s helpful to examine any story we hold as true at some level in our being. And it’s good when we are able to hold them lightly.

THE FREEDOM OF “I DON’T KNOW”

“I don’t know” gives me freedom.

It frees up more of my natural receptivity and curiosity. It gives me the freedom to explore the validity in a range of different stories about the same topic.

It gives me the freedom to relate to these stories more intentionally and make use of them in whatever way makes the most sense in the situation.

WHAT I KNOW

At the same time, I know some things.

In a provisional and conventional sense, I know certain things.

I know what name I go by in this world. I know some about my history. I know how to read and write. I know, to some extent, how to take decent photos and make decent drawings. I know a few things about meditation and many spiritual practices, both from my own experience and from what others say about it. I know some things about the world. I know some things about ecology and sustainability. I know some things about what I feel and think and experience here and now. I know some of my preferences and likes and dislikes. And so on.

I can have an inner knowing or intuition. This too is a question about the world. (Although it often turns out to have wisdom and kindness in it.)

Also, it’s possible to know some things about my nature. I directly perceive something about what I more fundamentally am. I find myself as capacity for the field of experience, and what this field of experience happens within and as. And that is also provisional and a question. I know that this too can be turned upside-down and inside-out at any moment. I know there is always infinitely further to go.

WHEN IT’S USED TO HIDE

“I don’t know” can also be used to hide.

We can use it to hide from others what we know. We say “I don’t know” when we actually do know something but don’t want to share it for whatever reason. Or we just stay silent when it would be more appropriate to share something.

And we can use it to hide from ourselves what we know. We know something we don’t want to know, and pretend to ourselves we don’t know. Or we distract ourselves from it, perhaps by going into compulsions.

In my case, a part of me wants to hide in general to feel more safe. This is a response to challenging situations from early in life, and I still live out that pattern in some situations and areas of life. For instance, I don’t use my name on this website, and I very rarely talk with anyone about the topics I write about here, even if they are central to my life. (I hide to stay more safe, but it doesn’t work. If anything, it just leads to frustration in the long run.)

In some situations, we can use “I don’t know” as a shield or a weapon. (And when that happens, we know.)


INITIAL OUTLINE

  • i don’t know is a lot of freedom
    • can be used as a shield, to hide
    • is fundamentally accurate, don’t know anything for certain, and maps are not the terrain
    • and is also true that we know some things, in a provisional and conventional sense

We can use “I don’t know” to hide in two ways. One is the way I sometimes do it, where I don’t share certain things with others. The other is to explicitly say “I don’t know” when we actually do know something, but don’t want to share it for whatever reason.

It’s accurate that I don’t know.

I don’t know anything for certain.

Any story I have about the world is provisional and a question.

It’s here to help me navigate and function in the world.

Stories are different in kind from what they are about. (Unless they happen to be about mental representations). And that means they are inherently imperfect in terms of capturing anything in its fullness or in a very accurate way.

They highlight some features and leave a lot out.

They are more or less accurate in a conventional sense.

Stories cannot hold any final, full, or absolute truth. That’s not their function.

Reality is always more than and different from any story about it.

That’s why it’s helpful to examine any story we hold as true at some level in our being. And it’s good when we are able to hold them lightly.

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