This Week in Intentional Living (3/11)

“Son of man, look with your eyes, and hear with your ears, and set your mind upon all that I shall show you”

(Yes, the quote is sexist.  Let’s move past that and chalk it up to antiquity, shall we?)

Look with your eyes and hear with your ears. Am I being obvious?  Again?  How else would you look or hear?

I submit that we all spend a lot of time looking and hearing without the benefit of our eyes and ears.

Our notion of what is is consistently colored by our preconceived notions of the world around us.  Not by what we’ve experienced, but by what we’ve chosen to understand over time.  And you already know that.

What might we learn if we actually look at the world around us?  If we listen to the people around us?  Would it make our lives better or are we better off clinging to what we “know” to be real?

Naturally, we all nod our heads and say, “Yes, we need to listen and learn.  We need to understand.”

But I’m not sure we believe it.

Our preconceived notions – the things we know to be true that ain’t necessarily true – can be comforting, and they’re often hard to walk away from.  But there’s freedom in walking away from them.

We used to know the world was flat.

We used to know the sun revolved around the earth.

We used to know bad air, not germs, caused disease.

The list of things I’ve known that turned out not to be actual fact could fill volumes.  I’m guessing the same is true for you.

Some things we have to take on faith, because most of us aren’t quite bright enough to know everything  (no matter how much of a know-it-all we seem).  For instance, I “know” that when I flip the little switch on the wall the light will come on.  I “know” when I walk up the ramp to the airplane, several hours later I’ll walk back down the ramp halfway across the continent.  I “know” that about a day after I start taking the pills my doctor prescribed my sore throat will feel better.

Now, all those things are demonstrably true, and I’ve come to trust them, regardless of the reality that I have absolutely no idea how any of them work behind the curtain.  If I stop to think about any of them (as I am as I write this) each of the three seem ridiculous.

I’ll touch a little piece of plastic and the dark room will become like day?  That massive hunk of steel is going to fly?  Millions of tiny little bugs have invaded my body, are making my throat hurt, and if I take one of these little pills every day for the next week they’ll go away?


But I have looked with my eyes and seen with my ears, so to speak, and have learned that those things are true.

There’s a fine line to be walked in this regard.  We’re bombarded with messages about what other people would like us to accept as truth, and none of us have the time or the talent to test everything personally.  Living in the modern world requires that we are comfortable with some level of ambiguity.  It’s important that we know, however, where the ambiguity must end, and where the knowledge of our own experience must come into play.

We can observe much about our world, but we have to take a lot of the world on faith.  The trick is to learn to be discerning.  To embrace skepticism, but not allow creeping cynicism.

What do we know that isn’t true?  How much better can we live by opening our eyes and ears to actually know the things we know?

“Son of man, look with your eyes, and hear with your ears, and set your mind upon all that I shall show you.”


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