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Sunday, 20 March 2011





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I only know that I know nothing

It was Socrates, the philosopher who lived in Greece from 469 - 399 BC, who had pronounced thus. I have taken it as my theme for today. At that period in history, Greece was the home of several city-states and Athens, the present day capital of Greece was the predominant city-state.

Modern belief is that democracy evolved in the city-state of Athens in the middle of the 5th-4th century BC following a popular uprising in 508 BC.

Though this article is not about democracy, I wish to state that, in my view, most of our ancient kings of South Asia ruled justly and more democratically long before the Athenian clamour for rule of the people, by the people, for the people.


Socrates lived at a time of transition when Athens sought to stabilize and recover from its humiliating defeat by Sparta, a rival city-state; and when, in all probability, the Athenian public may have been entertaining doubts about democracy as an efficient form of government.

Socrates appears to have been a critic of democracy, and some scholars interpret his trial as an expression of political infighting.

Rather than upholding a status quo and accepting the development of what he perceived as immorality within his region, Socrates questioned the collective notion of “might makes right” that he felt was common in Greece during this period.

He was found guilty of both corrupting the minds of the youth of Athens and of “not believing in the gods of the state”, and subsequently sentenced to death by drinking a mixture containing poison hemlock.

In these blessed days in Sri Lanka, sanctified by the elimination of terrorism, yet ravaged by nature, we are contented to live with the presence of a large mass of people who seem to know everything about everything.

And yet, in spite of such august company, the majority of Sri Lankans remain impoverished of knowledge and wealth - perhaps as living proof of too many cooks spoiling the broth.

These know-alls; philosophers, scientists and professionals; professing infinite wisdom, have failed to ensure prosperity in a land prosperous naturally. Why? Perhaps because the only thing they truly know for certain is that they know nothing.

My late father, a teacher by profession during the times when educators were considered as only next in importance to one’s mother and father - gods and religion coming thereafter - had a definition for these philosophers and scientists.

He used to say that: a philosopher is a person who knows less and less about more and more, until he knows nothing about everything; and, a scientist is a person who knows more and more about less and less until he knows everything about nothing. Well, I suppose, we can now surmise as to why our people remain in a constant state of flux - a plight that depicts everything and nothing at the same time.


Many people are confused by the term knowledge, intelligence and wisdom. Most; mostly out of ignorance, assume it to be one and the same thing.

In reality, knowledge is a fancy name for the conditioning we have been subjected to; whereas intelligence is a measure of how well you can use your intellect to help yourself deal with the situations that you are confronted with in your life; and, wisdom is something that you start to have once you realize that it was just conditioning.

Ardriana Cahill best describes the difference between knowledge and wisdom when she says: “Knowledge is but the messenger that calls you to wisdom, but it is not wisdom. One can gain knowledge, but one does not seek wisdom - one meets it when one often least expects it and recognizes it as kindred.

Knowledge puts us in the way of wisdom, but wisdom is experiential; it is a truth one recognizes in the external world that already resides in the internal one. One cannot learn wisdom - one must awaken it. Knowledge gives you the tools but never mistake the tools for the treasure”.

Knowing nothing is where a new born child commences the journey in life.

If a new born is the symbol of innocence, it would seem logical to accept that the absence of knowledge is bliss. That is why I suppose children are considered a blessing in life.

Most people don’t seem to realize that children are as intelligent as adults. Adults have more information in the heads, but no more intelligence than children. Of the two levels of mind,

I prefer that of children. They are innocent and open to life fully.

When they pretend, they know it is only pretending. Adults are pretending all the time and are rarely aware it is just pretense.

Adults think they should teach children, but there is more for adults to learn from children than they have to teach them. Not that we should not do our best to prepare the little ones for the life they will have to take part in; but before we do so, as adults, it is necessary to unlearn much of what we have been miss-taught.

We need to become sane again. Last night, before I sat down to write this article, I was thinking about what real spirituality is all about.

A child equates pure awareness, a consciousness that has not been contaminated by conditioning, and is free to accept what reality has to offer. Then as we start to teach, or condition the child, we create all sorts of nonsense and misidentification in these wonderful little beings.

We program them with our religions, our nationalism, our racism, our fears, insecurities, and all manner of other viruses. We contaminate the purity of these bright wonderful little beings, all in the name of love; and, think that we are doing the best for them.

As adults, and too late in life, we come to realize what a messed up piece of junk we have become.

We feel one thing, do another, hide our true feelings, and lie almost constantly to ourselves and those around us.

This is normal; and common, for a sick society.

If society is to rejuvenate and rediscover ethics bound happiness, which is just what we need, we have to erase clean our confused minds and start fresh again. As we start to question our beliefs, conditioning, and concepts; we are in fact effacing a lot of the fallacy of irrelevant conclusions from our minds.

Each time we go a little deeper we are becoming more childlike with the openness and wonder that fills their hearts. As our pre-conditioned concepts fade away, we find ourselves in a void. That state can frighten some of us who still carry the ego image of who we think we are.


It makes us feel insecure to face the fact that we ourselves are only a complex concept - an illusion at best. Once one is able to pass that level of fear and let ourselves go; not as an act of ego, but to seize and cherish the simplicity of life; then the door to Reality can and will open. You will find yourself a child again with the innocence that we all once had and still love to savour in children.

You will not have to pretend you love when you do not. You cannot help but love, not as an act, but as an expression of the Life that you are.

See you this day next week. Until then, keep thinking, keep laughing. Life is mostly about these two activities.

For views, reviews, encomiums and brick-bats:

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