“I Should Have Known”
“I should have known.”
Are you still telling yourself that, or believing others who say it?
“Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.”
~ Søren Kierkegaard
Such a simple phrase, and yet so rich with meaning and truth.
W hile we’re in the thick of the present moment, we must make decisions based on incomplete information and insufficient personal experience. That means failure can and does happen, to everyone. This quote can give great comfort, though, because even a great thinker like Kierkegaard knew and understood that we can’t always do the right thing because we’re human and limited and thus prone to messing up. It’s not until sufficient time has passed that we have the benefit of hindsight, knowledge and experience.
Some of us had read books like Without Conscience and The Sociopath Next Door (or even earned degrees in psychology) before the psychopaths who snared us came in our lives, but the knowledge in those books never came to mind when we needed it. Why would it, when we believed we’d met the most wonderful person?
Some things can only be learned through experience, and I believe this is one of them.
I n teaching, Socrates, Jesus, the Buddha and Kierkegaard used “indirect communication” to convey the the fundamentally unintelligible ideas they were trying to get across. Explicit and rationally comprehensible means—like writing down their thoughts and having people read them—would not have worked with those kinds of concepts, so instead they presented their students with metaphor, parable, drama, archetypal stories, miracles and poetry, and they behaved as role models, to bring their students into a position where the truth of their lives was available for their own individual realization (though ultimately it was up to them whether or not to embrace that realization). In other words, this “indirect communication” was a method of teaching through experiences rather than with words, because experience and discovery are often the best—and only—ways to learn some things, and in a way that enables you to truly understand them.
To me, the idea of a psychopath is a fundamentally unintelligible concept, and I’ll bet you would agree. As such, it can unfortunately only be learned by experience.
“I can only show you the door; you’re the one that has to walk through it.”
~ Morpheus from The Matrix
I n the aftermath, I wondered what other unknown threats, risks or dangers there were that I knew nothing about, or at least not enough about, to be able to protect myself. No one can know everything. There will always be unknowns and uncertainty. Reality confronts us without reservation or apology, and without regard for our wishes and desires. This is not to say we are completely without power and agency; not at all, but we have less today than we might tomorrow, because as we learn our power grows. But we will always have much less control over things than we would like to have and than we believe we have.
As some wise person once said, “Life is uncertain; eat dessert first.”
A lthough we are surrounded by other people, each of us, individually, must discover the truths of life, both good and bad. No one can show us the way, and we cannot escape the fact that—one way or another—we must find our way. Life is a series of experiences, one after the next, and although we don’t choose all of them, each gives us the opportunity to learn and to grow. Some of these experiences cause profound angst, and much time and contemplation is required before the appearance of understanding, and then growth—which happens when we accept the experience and then weave it into the tapestry that is our lives.
To do that, we must find the golden threads contained within.
Keep being willing and eager to live forward, with spirit, determination, passion, resilience, curiosity and a big measure of faith in yourself and in the world, despite what’s behind you, and despite the unknowns and uncertainty ahead.
♥ Love to all of you
BOOKS BY ADELYN BIRCH