“When unknown and known are seen to be intertwined and mutually supporting, new knowledge arises, open knowledge.” Keys of Knowledge. Page 154.
You can encounter something a hundred times, and then one morning it sinks beneath the skirmishing moods and opinions, slips below the surface of the explained and the familiar, striking a note of welcome for a mind weary of picking through twigs fallen from the Tree of Knowledge.
Suddenly we are lifted up and carried into the branches that have been nurturing us all along, whether we have known it or not. Now we recognize that we have been supported in each breath and each time we ventured forth from the pen of our thoughts and actions; we do not have to choose between the intertwining vines of the unknown and the known, because our only access to either is this life in which the two are inseparably intertwined.
When I am confronted with choices between alternatives, I seem to routinely chose the more familiar option. This came up last week at the dentist when I was told I needed to have a tooth extracted, and that this could be done by either her or her partner.
Well, I knew nothing about her partner who only joined the practice a few months ago, so I went with the known option. It didn’t cross my mind that choosing an unknown option might carry me into the branches of a tree in which the known and unknown intertwine.
Monday, November 29, 2021
I am in the dentist chair having my tooth extracted, and to have a filling replaced. The extraction went well. A single root, she pulled it out without a struggle. But when she looked at the hole left by the missing filling, she became quiet, requested an Xray from her assistant, and then showed it to me with the news that the tooth could not be saved. The Xray revealed three darkened roots with a shadowy darkness beside them, indicating decay and infection; she said it was beyond her personal expertise to remove this tooth; and asked if she should show it to her partner, who has more experience with extractions.
“Yes, please see if your partner can do it.” I responded. I don’t want to confuse myself by using the terms known and unknown as if they are objects between which I can make a choice. Choosing between one dentist, whom I know, and another whom I have never met, I was not exploring the unknown. Nor am I exploring the intertwined branches of the known and the unknown when I chose between a dentist in my known practice and a specialist. The need for such choices just tells me how little I know about the world.
Tuesday, November, 30, 2021
Back at home, I looked up her partner’s profile and read about an impressive background in oral surgery. So, when I received the message that she could do this second extraction as soon as tomorrow–Wednesday at 11:30 am–I scheduled it.
Wednesday, December 1, 2021
With one hole in my jaw already healing and another more traumatic extraction to come this morning at 11:30 am, I am ready to say goodbye to a third molar (if I count a long-gone wisdom tooth) in a dwindling row on the upper left side of my jaw. I might have, but didn’t, contemplate that these dominoes are now falling to the countless cups of sugar-laden coffee with which I started my working days as a young man in Montreal.
In preparation for this second extraction, I ate three pieces of pizza last night, chewing carefully on the left side of my mouth. But for the next few days, with wounds on both sides, I will be on a diet of mashed potatoes and soup for a few days. And as usual, the future is waiting silently behind an unknowable veil of time.
“The embodiment of this open knowledge is the real potential of the self.” Keys of Knowledge, P 154.
Friday, December 3, 2021
With myself back in the saddle, or thinking it is, I am following my post operative instructions. A loyal servant to my known world, I am used to following instructions. I don’t want to endanger the raw pockets, especially the new one, which has a couple of sutures stitching the wound. My new dentist waged a successful struggle to break and extract three twisted roots in pieces—and she also removed a nearby piece of bone left there by the oral surgeon a few years ago, thereby confirming my decision to go with this now-known dentist in my already-familiar dental practice.
It seems I am always embarking on a daily journey into the unknown, even when I imagine I am treading familiar pathways. Even when I seem to be making choices, it seems I am really flipping coins in a game whose rules are hidden from me. It seems that I am better off when I rely on the house being honest and fair; when I can trust that there is a presence making it possible for me to know that I don’t know very much. The one I call myself is one of those partially-known entities: a familiar monkey who jumps from branch to intertwined branch in the unbounded tree of the known and the unknown.
Monday, December 6, 2021
This morning in a few hours, I go into the dental practice to have my two recovering wounds checked out. I tell myself, “I am living with the consequences of my choices”. But I am really just living with what shows up in my life. I may imagine that I am wielding some measure of control over what happens, but that only seems to work with small matters, such as showing up at the right time for a dental appointment. When it comes to what really matters, then I can only rejoice that my known self so often finds itself sailing happily over the depths of a vast sea of unknowing. And then, from time to time, my tiller digs into the waves and I head toward some imagined isle of freedom.