Many times a problem lies not in the event that happened but in our interpretation of it. We are meaning making machines and a large part of our early years is spent in learning what things mean such as how our parents can know we were doing something (sound carries), why does my foot suddenly hurt (gravity/dropped toy, sharp object, angry insect), or why should I stay away from the stove (burning heat). We take these skills out into the world and learn to build a scaffolding of meaning around the experiences we have and those related to us by others.  Where we are missing pieces we fill them in, build around them, cover over them with logical assumptions and so we create our world.

But what if the meaning we make out of things is wrong?  What if we have used logic and experience and woven a structure that makes complete sense from the facts at hand, but doesn’t lead us to the life we want to have.  For instance, if we don’t know what we don’t know and we aren’t looking for what we don’t know, then we can build a structure that is absolutely perfect and yet unusable and dysfunctional.  I watched an example of this in my hometown. Most locals know that the area has a particular issue with water and how it moves under the ground. There are mountains on one side and the ocean on the other and the water table is close to the surface, has no aquifers or retention basins, and runs like underground rivers from the foothills to the sea.  So no basements and don’t cut into hillsides too deeply because you’ll just open a spigot.  Well, the architects for the new middle school weren’t local, didn’t know what they didn’t know, didn’t think to check or do anything other than rudimentary evaluations of the property and so built a magnificent facility on the side of the hill which promptly slid feet (not inches, feet) and filled with water like someone turned on a firehose somewhere.

Just like the rest of us, these people weren’t stupid, they weren’t trying to fail, they made assumptions and meaning from their educations and experience, did what they knew to do, and were unsuccessful because they had built something that missed a key element. Many of us do the same thing with our lives.  We think our way through things to avoid feeling and then are derailed when feelings are the foundation for everything we do. We feel our way through things refusing to think about them or what they guide us to do and then find that not knowing doesn’t make us less responsible. We use up our body doing everything it doesn’t want us to do and then rail at fate that it’s breaking down and not allowing us to do what we want to do.  We make meaning out of all of this which avoids the fact that we don’t have significant and necessary pieces of the puzzle.  Which is fine if we’re open to finding them, if we can recognize that this is the case and allow ourselves to make finding the part of the journey, if we can know that we don’t know.

Once we stop inventing a narrative that ignores the unknown and the unexplored about ourselves, we will inevitably discover the key which unlocks us.