Truth...knowledge....these are such common words in Mormonism.
So many people talk about what they "know to be true."
How often do we really deeply pause to reflect not on the knowledge we have, but rather on the process of knowing. How is it that a thing can be known?
What are the most basic things that I know? Well, I know that I am Josh DeFriez.
But wait, what even is the concept of "Josh DeFriez"? And what is the "I" to which I am assigning this identity? Is it the thoughts in the head of the body typing these words? Are these thoughts called "Josh DeFriez"? Or is it the body itself? Is it the feelings in the body? Or is it a combination of all of them? If it's a combination of all of them, then how do I go about setting the parameter for the combination that creates this mysterious person? My thoughts and feelings are deeply based in historical and social patterns. They most often did not originate inside this head. Then are those forces and patterns also a part of what it is to be "Josh DeFriez"?
But I feel that I have an intuitive understanding of what it is to be "Josh DeFriez." Maybe this mind isn't capable of defining the thing, but it most definitely exists. Kind of like when the sun is just barely going down, and stars start appearing in the sky. If I look directly at them, they disappear. I can only see them from the corner of my eye.
And this is odd. Something appears to be there from the corner of my eye, but not to be there upon closer inspection.
Isn't the self kind of like that? If I'm not thinking about it, I feel intuitively that I am a self. And yet, when I examine the thing, I find that I can't know for certain exactly what it means to be a self.
And the more deeply I examine the processes by which I think and function, the less certain I am about certainty. I don't really know how any of it works. I don't know exactly how thought is formed, or how food is processed into energy, or why I feel the way I do about certain things.
I am a mystery to myself.
Now back to knowledge. If I have any knowledge at all, then it must be stored in the vessel of this thing I call my "self." But if I cannot even know with certainty what sort of a thing this "self" is, then how can I ever know for certain the veracity of its beliefs or what it thinks it knows?
I can't, really.
And yet, I tell myself I know things. And telling myself these things create patterns of action. And these patterns of action can often lead to suffering.
And this is the way I see it when LGBT people continue to live in suffering because they "know the church and its teachings are true." While we are not capable of ultimate knowledge, we are capable of setting parameters within our own minds. These parameters can hurt us.
But within a narrative that tells you abandoning the narrative will lead you to the greatest suffering imaginable, it is difficult to ask deep, important questions. And this is the central problem of narratives based on the assumption of certainty. The nature of reality is uncertain. Maybe this is why the certainty of testimony more often leads to pain than joy--because it's not in line with the nature of life.
To me, religion is less about what I know to be true, and more about the conglomeration of mysteries that enfold my life. What do I know to be true? I don't know even know what truth is, ultimately, let alone how I would know it if I knew what it was. Of course I have general predispositions and methods of judgment, but even my most certain means of judging the nature of reality must be approached with a degree of apprehension.
And the more I acknowledge the unknowability of things and the incredible mystery that surrounds even the smallest action I take, the more deeply connected I feel with life. The more I embrace mystery, the more I feel peace.
Mystery fills me with awe. And, as Rumi says, "awe is the salve that will heal our eyes."