One of the things that I admire about higher education, or at least my exposure to it in my particular setting, is the opportunity it gives me to say, over and over again, "I don't know." There is a humility that this cultivates, a dependence on knowledge outside oneself, and a desire to learn and pursue a mystery, that is at the heart of nurturing a love of wisdom.
Yesterday, I tried to help some of my friends by asking pointed questions and offering what I thought might be appropriate insights. Today, I realised that none of it was all that helpful. And that's okay. I offered what I had because I was genuinely concerned for their well-being and wanted the best for them. I trust that they heard the desire of my heart louder than my pitiful and misdirected words. Perhaps, "I don't know," would have been a better offering, a better reflection of my desire to walk with them.
This week I have been struggling with the tension between "I don't know" and having to deliver the goods - some cohesive knowledge and relevant conclusions - in a paper. The pile of research is splayed on the floor beside my desk, begging someone to pull something of worth from it. I have read it and re-read it and while a few yappy bits of information jump out at me, there is no revelation. To me, revelation is the only reason I am doing this; the only thing worth putting on paper (forgive my idealism). A looming deadline triggers the urge to jump to conclusions instead of wait for wisdom.
Last night in class when we were discussing the ethics of reading, I offered the following observation: I can tell when someone loves what they are reading. They speak about it with passion, and they engage with it on a personal as well as intellectual level. It is my desire that I will take seriously my responsibility as a reader: to be receptive and reflective.
There is a person behind every text, a person who thought about and wrote these words, and Jesus commanded me to love them. If I love them, I will read their words with a different attitude. I will have more patience with the peculiarities of the text, I will diligently search for what they can teach me, I will ask better questions about the thoughts I encounter, and I will discover some hidden riches, uncover some undeniable value, and gain some insight. Each person who is made in the image of God has a morsel of this to offer me if I will but see it.
My motivation as a reader matters. God help me to be a loving and responsible reader, to stick with something until I have tasted it instead of making a snap judgment and hopping along.
This is a picture of something someone tossed to the side of the curb last night, taken from my third storey window. One person's garbage might well turn out to be another person's treasure.