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Knowing Vs Knowing To Much

Posted By Marita on April 19, 2010

Genesis 3:6. (NAS)

v.6 – When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.

Genesis 2:9, 17

9. And out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (NAS)

V16,17. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die.”  (NAS)

The idea of knowledge and wisdom and how much is enough or can you know too much has been on my mind a lot lately.  So as a data analyst what did I do…seek more knowledge on the subject.

It was triggered as I was reading a book by one of my favorite Bible study mentors, Beth Moore.  In her book So Long, Insecurity, she says: There is an enlightening knowledge that builds up and fortifies the human psyche, but there is also darker knowledge that rips it to shreds.  There is knowing. And there is knowing too much.[i]

Knowing and knowing too much? I have no doubt that it is important for human beings to study, learn and obtain knowledge but is there a “knowing too much”?

While thinking about this subject I began reading a classic for the first time.  Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes. The protagonist in this story is Charlie a 30 – 40 year old man who is mentally challenged. An experimental surgery is performed on Charlie’s brain and he begins to gain intelligence at an accelerated rate. As Charlie gains knowledge he grows cynical and loses the sweet gentle spirit that defined him as a person. Then the horrific happens and Charlie draws the conclusion that he will in a very short time lose the intelligence he has gained, possibly digress below the intelligence level he had before the operation. He also realizes that knowledge does not make us human.  How we treat others, how we serve others, makes us human. 

Gaining knowledge made Charlie smarter, but it didn’t make him more human. In fact, gaining so much knowledge tore at Charlie’s soul and made him a hard person to be around. Does knowledge do that to us?

In Genesis 2: 16, 17 God commands that Adam can eat from any tree including the tree of life, but he is not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Two specifically named trees: The tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. One provided life the other death.  In chapter 3 the serpent told Eve that she could eat of the tree.  It was not only edible BUT she would then be like God knowing good and evil.  The problem is, as Jack Nicholson says in “A Few Good Men”, “YOU CAN”T HANDLE THE TRUTH!”   There is knowing, and there is knowing too much.  It’s information overload. The human mind doesn’t handle information overload well.

Why is it that we cannot be satisfied with knowing?  Example – Celebrity gossip magazines.  They are filled with more information than a body has a right to know about people we don’t know! They are right there at the check-out line and let’s face it most of us even if we won’t purchase one, will glance over the headlines, because … “Inquiring Minds want to know”.

 It wasn’t enough for the nation to know that Tiger Woods had cheated on his wife.  The media kept feeding our desire to know more by letting us know details of the night of Tiger’s accident, then the running list of women he had been with.  Why do we need to know that?  What impact does it have on our lives.  It is tragic and devastating to the Wood’s family and friends, but certainly has no impact on the general public.

The desire for too much knowing grows when it is personal.  Example – When I found out my first husband was cheating on me.  Knowing he cheated on me and didn’t want to be married to me anymore should have been enough for me to seek counsel and move on with the next steps in life. It wasn’t.  I wanted to know who, why. What did I do wrong?  Was she better looking than I? What did she do differently that my husband chose her over me?  Phone bills were checked. Husband was followed. It became self-absorbing…self-destructive.  All because I wanted to know more, not just know.

A decade or so ago in the business world one of the buzz phrases was “Knowledge is Power”. To a point it is.  Knowledge can do great things, when used in it’s proper context.  Knowledge isn’t bad as long as it lifting and building up.  When it becomes an issue for ego and detrimental and harmful to ourselves and others it is knowing to much.

My prayer is that I seek knowledge not just to know, but for purpose of good, to serve others, to aid in love and compassion. Otherwise as one of the wisest men to ever live ones said “ all is vanity”.

[i] So Long, Insecurity you’ve been a bad friend to us -Beth Moore, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. 2010 – p. 218

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