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Knowledge for the Sake of Knowledge Is Meaningless — Knowing What You Don't Know Is Humility

Self-Mastery wisdom from the Tao Te Ching — Verse 39
Knowledge for the Sake of Knowledge Is Meaningless — Knowing What You Don't Know Is Humility
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Therefore the humble is the root of the noble.
The low is the foundation of the high.
The wise consider themselves “orphanded,” “widowed,” and “worthless.”
Their humility is the source of their strength. 1

For years, I felt inferior, not as smart, and not as intellectual as others.

When I finally made my way to university, I found my safe haven but it swelled my head.

My endless pursuit of knowledge was essentially ego-validating, an attempt to know more than others and to stand out as being smart enough.

I recall how superior I felt, and yet I eventually reached a point during my Master’s program — after seven years of scholarship — when I realized I had no future other than collecting ever-more insignificant points of data.

I felt lost, without meaning or purpose.

Shortly after leaving my Master’s, I stumbled into the field of personal development and began to practice living a self-examined life, one rooted in personal responsibility.

The older I get, the more I realize the importance of heart-centred emotions like compassion, empathy, and connection.

This is how I came into the understanding of human-heartedness from my contemplation of the Tao Te Ching as the core intentionality of personal integrity.

As I have opened up my heart to the humanity and oneness of all things, I humbly understand less and less.

As I focus more broadly on the periphery of witnessing the world around me, I see how much there is to know — while there is an infinity of what is unknowable.

This is a natural paradox that has afforded me contentedness in the acceptance of knowing just how little I will always know.

This awareness keeps my ego in check and opens my heart to the oneness of humanity and the humble acceptance of my place in the natural order of all things as ‘natural’ (which is a core concept of the Tao Te Ching, ‘tzu-jan,’  meaning, ‘of itself so’).

  1. English, Jane and Gia-fu Feng, trans. Tao Te Ching: Lao Tsu. New York: Vintage Books, 2012.