BALANCING ON THE BLADE OF KNOWLEDGE

Are there things we should not know? With this simple question asked, can anyone or institution, in this culture of unfettered enterprise and growth, seriously propose limits on knowledge? Could it be that we have lost the capacity to perceive and honor the moral dimensions of such questions? It’s interesting that most science fiction stories never end well once mankind’s knowledge passes a certain and unseen threshold. Could this be prophetic and that these stories of make believe which originate deep in the mind are brought to the surface in our reality and time for a reason?

Maybe, just maybe, our increasingly bold discoveries of the secrets of nature and the cosmos may have reached the point where that knowledge is bringing us more problems than solutions. Contrasting threats like overpopulation and a spike of incurable viruses such as AIDS appear to be traceable to the effects of “progress.” One powerful reading of history clearly points out that the most advanced nations on Earth have produced unthinkable weapons of destruction at the same time as they have developed a media culture that revels in images of destructive violence. Can such a combination fail or fall short to propel us toward barbarism and self annihilation? Are we collectively asking these questions as a part of a great company of souls whose family tree is the human race? I often ponder why we don’t take the collective or corporate human experience more importantly. Maybe, it’s just too big to get our heads and arms around? Maybe, we’re just to self-consumed in our short generational span of time? Maybe, we’re just too busy trying to survive? All of these reasons should make us pause and wonder about our purpose and destiny on a much larger scale. We think so small as we struggle to clarify our own personal purposes and destiny. Thus, we have little to boast about as the human species at this time in history. Our petty beliefs, social castes, institutional and marketplace kingdoms pale in comparison to where God would have us in regard to the human condition and maturation.

In contrast, our most truly miraculous accomplishments as human beings take place unwittingly and privately, far removed from laboratories, studios, and electronic screens, almost in another universe of being. For we learn to do certain things before we know what we are doing and in ways that no one can adequately explain. In twenty four months, an infant learns to recognize and discriminate the elements of the world around herself or himself, learn to pull itself erect and to walk, learns to hear language and to talk. Is it possible that we accomplish these feats better for our lack of knowledge about how we do them? Can we know anything unwittingly? I’ve read many Proverbs from many different cultures and they all tell us that it is possible to know too much for our own good. Many great myths and legends explore the perils of of knowledge. Fortunately, infants continue to learn to walk and talk…However, and oddly, multitudes continue to feel apprehensive about the future in our evolving culture.

I believe that we have prophetically awoken and have waked up to the dangers to our physical environment brought on by the depredations of fellow human beings. But we have taken less notice of potential threats to our intellectual, artistic, and moral environments. It is those three areas that demand prophetic focus and clarity of resolution if the days ahead will indeed be brighter. In every age, news of wars, disasters, and crimes has been appalling. Without overcoming those ancient woes, we now have new ones to lament because we have failed to collectively mature. In the twentieth century, we arrogantly basked with reports of marvels, but are also deep afflictions, brought about not by backwardness and ignorance but by advancing knowledge and its applications. Not only the most barbarous nations but also the most civilized nations expend vast resources to develop nuclear and biological weapons of unthinkable destructive force. Genetic research raises the remote prospect of choosing out children’s physical and mental endowment like wallpaper patterns, The invasive presence of audiovisual media in our lives from the earliest infancy threatens to shape our character and behavior as forcefully as genetic manipulation. In our quest for energy sources, we may be reducing the life span of our planet and ability to sustain its population. Scientific research, freedom of speech, the autonomy of art, and academic freedom will combine forces to carry us beyond our capacities as human agents to control our fate unless bridled with maturity and human morality that is deeply seated in all of us. The catch is that we choose to be disobedient in the grip of our appetites. Truly, what we perceive as our greatest blessings will soon confound us like a glutton choking at a great banquet.

I hate that fatuousness of a mind that excuses what it explains…and that analyzes itself instead of repenting. ~ Benjamin Constant, Adolphe, 1816.

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