All or Nothing- Socrates and Pearls

The story is told (likely not true) of a young man who came to Socrates desiring knowledge. Cryptically, the master’s only response was to invite the young man down to the river. Once there, he further invited the man to wade out to the middle of the stream, where the water came pretty high on them. Once there, Socrates seized the man by the head and held him under, nearly drowning him before finally letting him go!

When asked why he had done such a thing, Socrates proclaimed that the young man came idly seeking knowledge, but that Socrates could teach nothing until the man was desperate for it, as desperate as he had been for air when smothered in the river.

There are things that I am very passionate about in life, which I love to talk about at length with others. But whether I actually do so depends on if the person seems to really care, or is just making idle chit-chat.

“So, what do you do for fun?”

“Oh, I just like writing some stories and stuff.”

Socrates and I wished to safeguard that which was important to us, reserving it only for the sincere. Similarly, Jesus cautioned his followers not to throw their pearls before swine, as it deeply hurts when sacred things are treated with irreverence.

God safeguards His greatest treasures as well. Many may walk through the doors of the chapel to seek Him, but He will remain hidden until most of them grow weary two weeks later and leave. And once the last of the insincere disappear, then He will step out from behind the curtain and let the remaining few find Him. Remember that God wasn’t going to do miracles with Gideon’s army until he had filtered it down to the core faithful (Judges 7).

These are sacred things, and they deserve the utmost respect. If you don’t feel that your soul craves the word of God like your body craves air, if you aren’t dedicating yourself to Him for the long haul, if you aren’t ready to be serious about your faith…then there are just going to be things that do not yet receive, plain and simple.

What Sort of Disciple Are You?- Socrates and the Buddha

Socrates opened the minds of his followers to just how little actual knowledge anyone really has. He pointed out to them how so very much of what we say we know, is just things that we think to be likely, or are taking on authority. In fact, the only piece of information he claimed to really know, was the fact that he knew nothing.

Socrates had a point. As I think about it, there are extremely few things that I really know directly. I only take it on faith that the atom, Australia, and the 1970s exist(ed). I have never personally seen, measured, or witnessed any of these things. I do not doubt their existence, but I admit that all information I have of them is strictly secondhand.

The Buddha similarly cautioned against relying upon secondhand knowledge. Even as he presented to his followers the path to Nirvana, he instructed them not to take his word for it. To do so, he explained, would be insufficient. Rather than only being told the right way, one had to possess what he called “direct knowledge” of it. It was this direct knowledge that had led him to his own enlightenment, and also it was the only way for any other to reach enlightenment.

When one is willing to confess their ignorance, and let go of all the many things they do not know, they often discover that not everything is taken away. There still remains a nugget or two of the eternal. When we are no longer cluttered by the things that we think or assume, then we can discover the penultimate truths that we actually know.

This is a knowledge that surpasses mental cognition. It is a spiritual knowledge, one imprinted within us by God from before we were born. In our hearts we know, and we know firsthand, that God is our Father and that we are His children. We know that He is good, and that we are good, too. We know that He loves us, and that He wants us to be with Him. We know that He is happy, and that He desires us to be happy, too. These are eternal truths, and the direct knowledge of them are our most precious possession.

Indeed, when I consider how deeply rooted this knowledge is within me–so much more than anything else–I find it hard to accept that I know anything else at all.