Knowing is the responsible human struggle to rely on clues to focus on a coherent pattern and submit to its reality (13).
As I mentioned in my review, Esther Lightcap Meek’s Longing to Know is one of those books that have you reflecting. That is a special element in a good book—not only was I learning about epistemology, but I was then able to unlock many other doors of reality in the process. Meek uses this unlocking door analogy (not in the Gnostic way), explaining how knowledge is like discovery that not only expands our horizons into new worlds of truth, but also “lets reality in” to the world we already know. Here is an example and explanation from the book:
In the Star Wars movies, at the end of Episode 6 (the third movie), Luke, Leia, Han, and the audience find out that Luke and Leia are siblings. In light of this new revelation, the connectedness that Luke and Leia had evidenced and felt makes perfect and profound sense. The fresh focal pattern, “Luke and Leia are twins,” more than makes sense of what they knew. It transforms it, gives fresh meaning, evokes a body sense that outruns words. It’s as much what we can’t put into words as what we can put into words that testifies to the rightness of the pattern. It is the profundity of the pattern that testifies to us that we have not merely shaped a pattern, but that in doing so we have also unlocked the world…
When we experience the profundity of our focal pattern, we have the sense that we have contacted the real. What we experience is its transforming of the very features of our world, our bodies, and our guides, on which we relied in its pursuit. A second accompanying experience confirms the reality of our pattern. We sense another range of profundity, but where the other grew out of our past, this second one grows into our future.
In the moment of a profound integration, we experience a sense of the future possibilities, prospects, horizons of the thing we have encountered. There are sides we cannot currently see, behaviors we suspect but could never predict, implications only some of which we cannot reason out, but which in their incompleteness may lead us to uncover new and transforming dimensions. We could in no way exhaustively list those possibilities. We can’t even name them all. Yet they in their unnameableness confirm the rightness of our integration. This sense of possibilities furnishes us with a second indicator that we have contacted the real (126-127).
This illustration was exciting for me. As a kid, you’re always wanting to find a secret room with new possibilities. I’m still trying to talk my husband into building me one, complete with the Scooby-Doo, revolving bookcase entry. And yet Meek is not talking about “secret knowledge” that is only available to some. She is referring to the process of coming to know anything. As adventurous as new discoveries may be, they can also be scary—just ask Shag and Scoob. So this illustration also helped me to understand why some people refuse to acknowledge the truth, even when all the clues and pattern are there. There’s a word used in Meek’s above definition of knowledge that we just don’t embrace easily—submit.
You might have some clues that are making up a clearly identifiable pattern. You’re probably not even out clue-hunting, they’re just right in your face. You see the door, with its keyhole, and you’ve got the key. But you know if you match that key in the hole, turn it, and open that door, you will have to let reality in. The truth isn’t always pretty.
Maybe you prefer the world you are living in without this new discovery. Once the door is open, you will have to submit to a whole new world of implications to the reality that has been discovered. I think fear keeps us from seeking knowledge sometimes.
This is a part of the Christian life that we need to prepare for. Our merciful and mighty Savior warned us to count the cost. Often, when we do this kind of inventory we find that we do not have what it takes to live the Christian life—not of ourselves anyway. There is one over-arching reality, one glorious door we must enter through, that opens up a crazy world–but it’s real. Jesus said, “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:9,10).
When we learn the cost of our salvation for our Savior, we see that grace is expensive. Isn’t that amazing? Grace cost Jesus Christ everything—his perfectly holy life bearing our curse. He offers this grace freely to us, and yet this new world that we enter has a cross to bear ourselves. Because we are his, Christ supplies everything that we need for our journey. Through his Spirit, we really are being transformed into his likeness as we walk through the doors he has put in our lives. I may not always want to walk through them, but I am encouraged and comforted as I put the key in the door, because I know that Jesus is with me. Every door I open is leading me closer to seeing him face to face for an eternal fellowship in his presence.