On the way to Manali, Sofie asked the question: “Why do people want to know everything?”
My answer to Sofie was simple and dual:
- People want to be safe and secure all the time. They want to be able to predict what will happen to them in the future, far and near. Being able to predict, they might also be able to control what happens to them to some extend. Control is power, and that is the only thing that most people on earth are really interested in.
- However, to know something, is different from experiencing something. A chair in your mind is not a real chair, neither is the dinosaur in your imagination, nor a black hole you remember from a picture inside a book or anything you think about god. A stored first hand experience is a memory, comparing stored experiences from yourself and others leads to concepts, like ‘a chair’. But ‘a chair’ does not really exist.
So in the end we cannot really ‘know’ things the way they are. We can only experience what we see here and now.
Here my answer to Sofie ends, but for those of you interested in more ‘knowledge’, i added 3 interesting quotes. I used to think that knowledge itself could be conceptualized, and that doing so would lead me to even more knowledge and power. These days i’m not so sure anymore.
Immanuel Kant (1724–1804): “Human reason has this peculiar fate that in one species of its knowledge it is burdened by questions which, prescribed by the very nature of reason itself, it is not able to ignore, but which, as transcending all its powers, it is also not able to answer.” (Kritik der reinen Vernunft)
Nagarjuna (perhaps born in the 2nd century) understood this futility of searching for an answer but he did not attribute this failure to reason itself, as Kant did, but to the mind itself being ‘dependently arisen’ and subjectively projecting its reality upon nature.
Therefore he wrote: “Defilements, karmas, doers, rewards, and punishments are all similar
to a mirage, a dream, a shadow of light and an echo of voice.”
Nansen Fugan (748–834) wrote: “The Way does not belong to knowing or not knowing. To know is to have a concept; to not know is to be ignorant. If you truly realize the Way of no doubt, it is like the sky: wide open and vast emptiness. How can you say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to it?”