“U Don’t Know Nothing Produce” is a store in Yorkville on the upper east side of Manhattan about 5 blocks from where I live. Its name makes me smile whenever I see it splayed in big white letters across the awning that wraps itself around the brick corner building that serves as its home. It reminds me of what I believe, of my mantra, my life’s philosophy. And it helps keep me humble.
For what do we know? What do we truly know? What do we know without a single doubt, without a second voice whispering “maybe not.” What do we know for sure, with unwavering confidence and clarity? That we are willing to bet our life on, our spouse’s life, our child’s. Who would dare? But if we don’t dare, then once again, what do we know? What do we really, absolutely know?
When I was six I knew we lived at the Noonan Plaza on Nelson Avenue in the Highbridge section of the Bronx. From then on it was a swift journey downhill in the “Knowing” department, though I didn’t know that until much later.
When I was eight, I went outside to play on a Sunday afternoon and returned an hour later for a snack. When I finished my milk and mallomars, and was about to make my escape and get back to the business of playing, my father asked me where I thought I was going. (I love that expression: “Where do you think you’re going? Do parents still say that or are they too afraid of their kids to dare?). When I told him that I was going outside to play, he said “No.” That it was raining outside. But I had just come in, and I knew what was what, so I tested the limits, stuck to my eight year old guns (harmless in those days) and insisted there wasn’t a cloud in sight. His answer left my limits in the dust with no room for argument.
“Maybe on your side of the building where you were playing it was sunny,” he said. “But on my side, where I was standing it was getting ready to rain.”
The rain hadn’t even begun, but somehow he knew it would happen, while I knew it would not. I was his mirror image. Just as stubborn and passionate. As usual, he won the debate and I stayed inside. Shortly thereafter it rained, though for only ten minutes. Who was right? Perhaps we both were. Or neither one of us. At the time it felt important. Now it’s just an amusing story to tell.
Yesterday I heard someone ask a friend “What more do you need to know?”
I loved hearing that. It made me feel safe and calm. For me, his point seemed to be: Enough analysis. Enough guessing games. Enough figuring things out and trying to “know” the unknowable. That what we need is to stay awake, to listen and watch. That knowledge and understanding follow, as day follows night (or is it night follows day)? That life demands, in the main, only our attention and gratitude. And that the rest is commentary.
So trust what you sense, intuit, feel and dream. Intellective knowing is ego driven static. Confusing and devoid of grace. It’s like light; the particle and the wave. Switching back and forth. First one, then the other. Inconstant. Undependable. Yet, strangely like the Tao, which eludes all labels ad definitions. For as soon as you know that you know, you know that you don’t.
The one thing I know for sure is that I do not know. And the truth is that I no longer want or care to.The payoff is way too small for the worlds, both within and without, that I give up when I forget and buy into that stuff.
You can use the following imagery exercise as a practice to train the know it all mind to step back and allow things to arise and flow.
Go With the Flow
Close your eyes and breathe out one time through your mouth. See yourself standing before a body of water and diving into a strong current. Know this is current of life, and that by doing this you are letting go of all constraints and fears.
Sense and live how by going with the flow, instead of struggling against it, you forgo all thought and thinking, and you are carried to new places unheard of in your ordinary life.
See and sense what happens, and how you look and feel. Then breathe out and open your eyes.