What Do You Know?

What do you know, and when did you know it?

This was the major question during the Watergate investigation. The question was asked of President Richard Nixon. If he didn’t know anything about the Watergate conspiracy until much later, then he was just like us! If he knew something before everyone else, then he was culpable, and probably guilty.

We never quite got to the answer of what he knew or when he knew it. Possibly it was erased during the famous 18 minute gap on the White House audio tapes, even now this same question is asked of powerful people in times of crisis.

Often I hear of a defending response…What is “knowing”? “I can’t be guilty if I’m not sure if I know anything!” It is a viable response, sorta.

“Knowing” something seems at first glance to be in the realm of certainty. Once known, always known. The trouble is, that science has told us that things once known, can be known differently with further study.

What about the structure that is built on basic knowledge? If basic knowledge changes, then the entire structure shifts. Very disconcerting!

It is a real possibility that future statements of “knowing” should be modified with, “on the basis of the current information, I believe this about that! In my humble opinion.”

This seems way too “politically correct” and squishy. Why can’t we just state the obvious and be done with it. Rocks are not alive, they don’t think, and they certainly don’t speak.

I’m not certain that all geologists would agree completely. More knowledge chips away at basic certainties.

On a personal level I try to operate in both worlds. I generally agree with the basic truths, but I also entertain radically different realities. It is a practice partly of humility and also a potential hedge for new change.

I’m trying to envision the possibility of “knowing for certain”. We can put the words together, but does that mean it actually exists. We can say that this morning we saw “clouds made of rock”. Descriptive, words that are correct, but a concept that is impossible.

Unless you happen to live next to an active volcano, where pumice is being ejected into the atmosphere. Pumice is lava that is filled with air pockets. While they are not lighter than air, they are so light that they can form “clouds” that travel for miles before falling to earth.

Rock clouds do exist! Does this mean that every bizarre statement can be proven to be real? That’s a lot of phrases to think about.

I believe that it is useful to know that certainty is often subjective. That tears at the foundation of the word, and shakes the standard of “knowing”.

The end result is that existence is much more miraculous and surprising. That’s a good thing!