How Much Do We Know? - Rahil Patel

7 May 2021

“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life,” wrote the British Parliamentarian, Samuel Pepys (1633 -1703) in his well-documented diaries. It is said that Pepys’s detailed and insightful diaries play a large part in sculpting our comprehension and knowledge of London’s intricate history today. Without his vast work spanning across ten highly eventful years, much would be vague. I was fairly convinced that I had a considerable historical awareness of Britain’s capital city until a few years ago when a friend gifted me a book titled, “London Uncovered” by Mark Daly. London has always been my best-loved city and I have never succumbed to tiredness when ploughing deep into its extensive history which (at the time) offered me a helpful and slightly exaggerated confidence in my own knowledge. Alas, life’s lessons arrive in a variety of shapes and sizes and this Christmas gift was no exception. Turning the pages of “London Uncovered” became a humbling affair…

The title of Mark Daly’s elaborate coffee table book was seductive as it lured me to investigate (with reluctance of course) and confess the insubstantial nature of my historical knowledge. It was quite painful. Although, as I meandered through page after page, I was unequivocally spellbound by the stunning sites that I had never witnessed first-hand in the city where I had spent most of my life. I have wandered quite extensively (so I had thought) along the charming streets of London and kept myself open to a lot of its mysterious historical offerings but here, I willingly came to the conclusion that I had only dipped a toe or two in its boundless canvas of delights. There’s so much to uncover! After a little musing, I confessed that the belief, ‘I know enough’ is the key ingredient for ignorance to prevail and as a result prevent any form of healthy information, knowledge or wisdom to flow freely toward one’s direction. Furthermore, this tendency can surreptitiously carve its way into habit.

Although I proudly adorn an ancestral heritage rooted in India which is flavoured with cultural additions passed on from Kenya, London is near, dear and bears a place in my heart towards which I will always have an effortless bias. But here lies the conundrum. It is quite uncomfortable and somewhat perplexing when one concedes how a near and dear city so close to one’s heart can suddenly seem so hauntingly distant when various pages from its unknown abyss are relentlessly uncovered. Admitting a scarcity of cognizance in areas where we own no interest is not at all a sign of humility as much as it is passivity. But it is onerous to admit to a lack of knowledge in an area where we believe we have expertise. 

Have you ever confronted a moment in your life when you believed you knew someone meticulously well until a particular event came about uncovering a revelation that you knew nothing at all? Have you then felt distant or awkward? At which time, do you choose to walk away embarrassed and ashamed or do you draw yourself closer intentionally to learn more? Learners are good listeners and good listeners ask perspicacious questions. They add layer upon layer to their expanding knowledge bank with paint strokes of humility and in the wisdom that beauty is always deeper than the appearance it presents.

The Titanic continues to intrigue millions of people one hundred years after its departure to the bottom of the cold and dark Atlantic Ocean. Movie makers and authors alike have memorialized the colossal vessel through various enchanting stories. The Titanic’s journey from Southampton to New York is intertwined with captivating narratives of people who sailed with it as well as those who didn’t. Researchers today are still revealing details of the graveyard sitting 3.8km under the sea. I wonder however if part of the intrigue and interest in this mangled and yet majestic sea vessel that took 1,500 lives is due to the fact that there is still more to know? More stories of the people buried beneath its metal carcass, more insights and details on how it sank. The very thought that the Titanic is extremely difficult to find and yet not impossible makes it an adventurer’s dream. If it were salvaged and stored in a museum, it may not have the same attraction… Like the peak of  Mt. Everest, the sites we discover which have been the most difficult to pursue, offer us the greatest pleasure. And so it is with the hearts of those people that surround our lives. There is more to know but wisdom and insights into the lives of these wonderful people demand a daily dose of hard work. Patience, listening, asking sensitive questions and relentless humility helps us find treasures deep inside their being where the joy is always ours. The fun of finding the unknown will never end. And so it is with God. The more we find Him, the pleasure and joy are ours. We can never know enough of God. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”(Matt 7:7). ‘I know enough,’ will never let us pursue the beauty, depths and insights into our everyday lives. If we are bored with what we already have, we haven’t really explored.

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