Monday, November 26, 2007

Two Minds

(I should be writing my Advent Carnival post--don't forget to post yours and email the URL to me by noon tomorrow! But this one was ready to go....)

Papa Rooster captured this exchange a few days ago:

Chicklet5 said the most remarkable things to me a few minutes ago. I was in bed, reading my book on simplicity by Paula Huston, and she was next to me, making drawings to give to everyone in the family. It was her rest time. I guess it was mine, too.

She said to me, "Dad, I learned something: there's [mom's full name], [brother's full name], [other brother's full name], Grandma and Grandpa [same last name], and [her own full name]... every one of them are the same: [our last name]. The little boy in my mind didn't realize that. "

Chicklet then smiled playfully and explained, "I have two minds: one's a little boy and one's a little girl." I think I must have looked amazed, so she smiled again and continued, "They both live in my body. AND, God lives in my body, too."

I asked her where the little boy lived. She said, "He lives in my head." And the little girl? "She lives in my heart." And God? She looked a little puzzled and said, "He lives everywhere in my body. The boy's in my head, the girl's in my heart, and God's everywhere in my body." It was all very sensible to her.

She then asked me, "Do you have that, too, Daddy?... Two minds? A boy and a girl?"

I considered the question for a while, thought about Mary and John the Baptist, thought about the poetic and discursive ways of knowing--all of this in a flashing recollection of all these years of thinking about how we know and how we connect to God, and said, "Yeah, I guess it's the same for me--a boy in my head and a girl in my heart and God everywhere."

It was an amazing bit of wisdom, completely untutored, very unscientific, but very true and wholesome: the wisdom of ages in a moment from the mouth of a little girl.

Now, this is me, Mama Hen, with a few related thoughts:

One of the most mind-opening discoveries of my adult life has been the understanding that there are two ways we know things. Many languages actually have different words for the verb "to know," but even though I took two years and two semesters of French, I never really understood the difference between savoir (knowledge of facts) and connaitre (knowledge by relationship).

I grew up and went through college believing primarily in knowledge that could be proved logically and scientifically. Even belief in God, I thought, could be argued rationally; there was the teleological argument, the ontological argument, Pascal's wager...I learned them all.

It wasn't until I took a course at my church, called "Women in the Kingdom" (which was really about the relational way of knowing), that I grasped this truth for the first time. The instructor had us pair off and describe someone we knew well to another person who didn't know the person we described. When we regrouped as a class, it became apparent that every one of us had ended our description with the realization that, "You'd just have to meet him/her to see what I mean."

I suddenly understood that there are some things you know that you "just know," that can't be proved or articulated completely, but they are no less valid. It was as if I needed intellectual permission to trust in this kind of knowledge. But now I realized for the first time that this was the way to know God!

My faith had always been a heartfelt head trip before. In worship, I used to sing the words, assenting to every one in my mind--but suddenly, as I let my feelings and my faith come forward in praise, I began to cry through every song. I felt things I'd never felt before, allowed emotions that had been bottled up for years to spill out, in God's presence.

He knew me, knew it all. I didn't have to explain it or put it into words for Him to know and forgive it all, pour His love into me, and receive the praise of my heart, with or without any words. It was a breakthrough in my ability to worship in freedom, offering Him the praise of my mind and heart--my whole self--and receiving His wordless love and direction. (Ironically, it was understanding that no words were needed between us that opened my mind to be able to receive His words and images.)

Classically, the way of factual knowledge and discursive learning is described as masculine; the intuitive, poetic and emotional ways of knowing by relationship are described as feminine, just as in Proverbs, Wisdom is personified as a woman. Wisdom is knowing the right thing to do, instantly--not by listing pros and cons, calculating the cost, and coming to a rational conclusion.

The early Church hints at these two kinds of knowing with John the Baptist, who prepared the way for the Lord with a bias for action and for discourse, and with Mary, who prepared herself by simply saying yes: "Be it done to me as you have said."

Two minds: a boy in my head and a girl in my heart. And God everywhere.

Maybe she'll be a Christian philosopher.

1 comment:

Jenny in Ca said...

wow Hen,

I loved this post, treats like this are why I like to come by and visit!

I think sometimes we know this, without knowing it..and without thinking about it hard enough to put it into words- you did that so well,as did Chicklet

In our house, we talk to the kids about knowing something with your opposed to knowing something with your head...