Knowledge: Apathy and Avoidance / by Michael Nichols

Do you ever have those nagging questions? You know, the kind you're just dying to ask but too afraid that you may not like the answer. They are so... persistent. Either you ask the questions, or the questions will ask you. You challenge them to become answers, or you will be challenged by them. Think about it. The prerequisite here is that you consider your question to be for someone, not just an empty statement to breathe into the air. After all, we don't ask questions for which we already know the answers unless we simply want to provoke others you l to think more deeply than what comes naturally, and if ours is the first case, how can we justify not seeking answers elsewhere if we have somewhere to go? Answers are knowledge, and knowledge is power, right? That is the consensus, but is it the truth? Doubtful.

Not only can knowledge bring power -- I do concede that it can bring it though it is not its essence -- but it can also bring limitation. Think about that sickening feeling you get before you ask someone to go on a date with you. Ugh! How unnerving it can be! Can be. I'm just like that. Others are better than me in their realization of how little they usually have to lose, but I digress. I know I might not get the answer I want, but I also know that I'll never know if I don't try.

Similarly, college applications, auditions, job interviews -- these are all things that involve the imposition of the knowledge that things might not turn out so well. In reality, though, if you stop to think about it, how often do you want to know the answers?

Now, let me clarify: a fine line is drawn between, "I don't want to know," and, "I really don't care." One lives in rebellion, whereas the other simply avoids reality. "I really don't care" means just that. It doesn't matter what happens to the person. He doesn't try to change the circumstance or avoid the repercussions, and it has merit until he begins to do damage to himself and his surroundings. "I don't want to know," however, is something completely different. Unlike apathy, it does matter what the outcome is, what the repercussions are, what the circumstances are. In fact, this is the reason he doesn't want to know. If he knew, he would be taking a risk. He values his life. He doesn't want to see it go, and this loses merit by the same means as apathy, when it becomes destructive.

So when does this happen? Well, which would you rather endure? Take, for example, opinion. Do you not care about others' opinions, or would you simply rather not deal with what you're sure that [undesirable] opinion is? And what exactly do you plan to do when undesired knowledge finds you? If you legitimately don't care, that's one thing, but if you do, you have to process it. You can try to avoid it, but it will catch up. Then what? And if you legitimately don't care, what happens when those who do care decide to stop you? Suddenly, if you value your life if nothing else, apathy will seem a bit less beautiful.

Either way you experience it, this is a dismantling of your mind by external forces. Your thought processes are rearranged, your general perspective shifted a few degrees in some direction, and that usually isn't up to you because usually the circumstances surrounding you aren't self-instigated. You don't choose to be born into a specific family or to be born at all. The choices of others lead up to that.

But sometimes, it is up to you whether or not you gain knowledge. Is it for knowledge's sake, or for wisdom's sake? Do you build up others' perceptions, or do you build up your soul? The question is this: which one is really better for you? The answer is: neither. Sometimes, you need to know what is happening -- and it always needs to be the truth, by the way; otherwise, what is the purpose of knowing? -- but sometimes, you're better off not knowing.

Sometimes, the opinions of others can be more detrimental to you than helpful, and sometimes the inverse is true. Meddle in the affairs of others when you have not been invited, and you will have a riot on your hands. You destroy your dignity and trustworthiness. Sometimes, it is better to do so when the stakes are high, like saving someone who is being turned into a victim before your eyes.

Sometimes, the disapproval of those we hold dear can affect our mood, our thoughts, our actions continuing from that point. If we are legitimately about to screw up our lives, then yeah, maybe we need to know, but still don't want to know. Sometimes, people are completely ignorant and maybe even apathetic to you, so knowing may be useless. Does that mean you don't care? Not always, but it means you don't have to expose yourself to negativity that would not be beneficial to you.

It isn't always clear what stance you should take when acquiring knowledge given the diversity of situations in which knowledge can be acquired, but this one thing is clear: "Love does no harm to its neighbor" (Romans 13:10). Knowledge can do harm if it is given or taken in the wrong spirit and in the wrong context. It can sometimes be more brutal than a beating. Learn to discern. If you know one thing, know love, and wisdom will begin to grow in you.