What is knowledge?
Shining wisdom that has the power to connect the mind to the heart, or disconnect the soul from the mind?
Throughout time many have sojourned to find the truth within borders that do not exist. Some brought knowledge to others, many died trying.
Is it enough to simply say that I know why the sky turns red with the setting of the sun in the west? If challenged, could I explain it? Would I use words like "particles" and "refraction of light?" Would I simply turn up my nose at the idea of someone challenging my wisdom?
I think it would depend on the person. If it were someone with whom I enjoy pondering the wonders of the world, it would be a pleasure to engage in this conversation. If it were someone with whom I don't get along, I may find it irritating and exhausting to explain and I may hide behind my false sense of pride, feigning self-assuredness that I DO know what I'm talking about. Why would I need to prove to anyone that I am knowledgeable?
Does this make me evil? Intolerant? I do not have infinite patience. Just ask my children. My lack of patience is my most prominent weakness, my Achilles heel.
Even the Zen Master has an Achilles heel. Something that makes him human. Few are beyond reproach. None are perfect.
The quest for perfection saturates everything. Its many manifestations permeate the very air we breathe, suffocating and reducing us. From the noblest to the most petty, the things we seek to perfect bring us down.
I ran into a friend today that I haven't seen in some time. She has always been very environmentally and natural-health conscious, buying exclusively natural, organic and eco-friendly foods and products; riding her bike everywhere instead of driving her car; recycling--going out of her way to find facilities that would take whatever recycling items our own facility would not take; composting, etc.
Her small body is riddled with cancer. She has tumors on her lungs and liver that are growing instead of shrinking in response to treatments. Her skin is jaundiced and swollen, the belly that sustained and contained her children swells over her frightfully thin hips, showcasing the tumors that are sucking her life from her. There is a very strong possibility that her cancer is a result of pollution. Breathing in the exhaust from cars she biked behind for so many years, and living next to a stream that is reported to contain several cancer-causing agents are likely the cause of her cancer. Irony in it's most evil form.
Yet she smiles.
She smiles when she talks about her son's upcoming wedding, her husband, her sister's trip to the U.S. from Israel for the wedding, her father's upcoming surprise 80th birthday celebration.
Through all this sickness and uncertainty, she is grateful. To stop and talk with her was a lesson in gratitude. I almost didn't do it. I was feeling very selfish. I haven't been feeling well and she has always been one of those friends that you had to make sure you had a bit of time to chat with if you planned on approaching her. I can't tell you how many college classes I was late getting to because I stopped to say hi to this friend.
I am so glad I stopped to say hi. Watching her pull out a photo of her son and his bride-to-be, the way she was glowing while she told me (again) how they had been together since their first year of college, was a blessing. A blessing that I almost passed up.
What is knowledge? Is it something learned from books? A feeling or sensation emanating from within? Is it a chance encounter with a person from whom the most valuable of life's lessons can be learned?
Don't count your blessings, friends, for counting them will only make you sad when one day you miscount or discover one missing. They aren't ethereal beings that remain with you always. They are like the rivers and tides, always changing, ebbing and flowing; like the wind, breathing softly at your neck or pounding at your back as you walk down the beach.
Don't count your blessings, friends. Keep your eyes open and your soul ready for them--they find you in the most unexpected ways.