The joy and vitality of not knowing
From Kasia Stoinska
joy and vitality of not-knowing
Welcome to the Chaplaincy of Joyful Abandon. Today we are considering the joys of not-knowing: not having to possess polished knowledge, or to defend our position. Instead we can come in with an ‘innocent eye’, to use John Ruskin’s phrase, and thereby see more truly who or what is before us, and engage more vitally with life around us. What a tonic for perfectionism! We are let off the hook of having to know, and present our knowledge, perfectly: an effort that anyway causes us to screen out whatever does not fit our understanding.
Bringing us her enjoyment of not-knowing is Sarah Woods, herself a polymath: a librettist, award winning playwright, teacher, facilitator, public intellectual, and performer, who works with people with lived experience of homelessness and of asylum, and is an active ecological and political campaigner. For Sarah, not-knowing is a practice: allowing ourselves to be in flux rather than occupying fixed ways of seeing. She applies this practice to learning from her ‘rescue dog’, and to the pitfalls of White privilege. Her insights present parallels to what Zen Buddhists refer to as the beginner’s mind, though it is the work of Victorian art critic, writer, and polymath John Ruskin on whom she draws, along with latest research in neuroscience and the predictive brain.
Sarah’s works for the BBC include Borderland, Powerout, an adaptation of Karl Marx’s Das Kapital, and of Jane Goodall's classic In the Shadow of Man. She is currently dramatising The Limits to Growth report for BBC Radio 4.
Cover Art, by Mark Harris
Music: ‘Swilo Yini’ by Soweto Melodic Voices, from their CD Harambee, 2014.
Soweto Melodic Voices is a youth choir from Soweto, supported by the University of Edinburgh Chaplaincy to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe, to inspire young people and schools in Edinburgh, and to record music in Soweto. For details of the Edinburgh-Soweto link see here.