Friday, March 03, 2006

Knowledge and Realization

There is a window. The sun shines through the window. The sun is warm and bright. There is a sink by the window. A kitchen sink. I am in the sink. My grandmother is bathing me. The sun shines into the sink.

This is a bit of knowledge I have from the memory of a direct experience. Not that it is something I think about much. It is just there, the same as a memory of who my third grade teacher was. It exists. This is the only memory I have of my maternal grandmother. From hearing, I know she was in poor health and died shortly after I turned 2 years old. More knowledge. My grandmother had only one child, and I was her first grandchild.

I was recently filling out a medical history and it asked for the causes of death of my grandparents, so naturally such a memory would bubble up. The difference this time is that now I am a grandparent, and I know how fulfilling it can be to have a grandchild, to hold the helpless child of your child. How biologically satisfying it is.

Suddenly, instead of seeing that memory from my perspective as a pre-cognitive child, I experienced it from hers. It was almost an ecstatic moment, and that memory was transformed from knowledge, into realization. Even though I had had the memory and facts for a long time, I had never understood how she must have experienced it, or even thought to try understand her emotions at the time.

Similarly, reading scripture gives us knowledge. We can, and should, study scripture, learn verses. We can learn a philosophical paradigm based on the scriptures. We can learn how to teach from that paradigm, how to use scripture to illustrate and support points. We can even learn how to debate effectively using these as tools. However, that is still based on knowledge, on empirical study and analysis. Realization is another level, something that unfolds wider and deeper as we move along the paths of our lives. Knowledge is a useful tool for realization, but it is quantitative, whereas realization is qualitative, and it behooves us to know the difference.


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