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VAST FORWARD – Trebbe Johnson

Grabbing the Great Now from the tiny now

Drop the Knowing

Nov 29, 2019 05:33 pm


A friend was telling me the other day about a conversation she and her partner had with a couple of guys they know. The women are Democrats and lesbian, the men Republican and straight. The woman who is my friend is a minister, and the other three are members of her congregation. Obviously, when two such different pairs of people get together, there could be a lot of dissent. And worse. There could be disdain, name-calling, demonizing.

But because these people actually like one another, they decided to set some guidelines for their conversation. They decided that they would “drop the knowing.” In other words, they would discuss their differences of opinion with an attitude of curiosity, openness, and respect. There would be no rushing in with righteous authority. And so, during the course of this conversation, which my friend said left all four of them feeling grateful and compassionate, whenever one of them made a remark that touched a sore spot in one of the others, they would remind that person that the remark came from their whole history, personality, and ideology. It was not “the truth”; it was a perspective.

I love this idea of “dropping the knowing.” It means letting go of the need to be the ultimate expert whose version of reality must be heard and heeded above all others. Dropping the knowing means entering into a conversation with another person as if what they had to say is a clue to a new, possibly valuable reality. I had a teacher like that, Steven Foster, who, with his wife Meredith Little, started creating wilderness rites of passage programs for contemporary people back in the 1970s. Steven always acted as if he couldn’t believe his great good fortune in getting to hear your story.

Many of us these days avoid conversations with people whom we know don’t agree with us politically or spiritually, because we don’t want to be yelled at. The problem is exacerbated on social media, where people you don’t even know can say the most awful things to you. I wonder if the guideline of “dropping the knowing” would help in such a conversation—maybe not on line, but in person.

It’s worth a try.

What I’m reading

A few months ago I read a couple of book reviews about a book called Farewell to the Horse by Ulrich Raulff and kept thinking about it. It’s a portrait of the human relationship with this animal that interweaves mythic, artistic, personal, and historical stories. The New York Times wrote of it this way: “At his best, Raulff constructs not just painterly layers of complementary information but wreaths of interconnected facts. In short order, he is capable of braiding together Degas, the thoroughbred, Cromwell, Francis Galton (Darwin’s cousin), George Stubbs, anatomical theaters and Muybridge, all before securing the wreath to itself with Degas again. Every few pages, he works this magic. Along these circuitous routes, his prose takes air, floating on the sheer joy of investigation and rumination.” I’ve only read the first chapter and I’m already intrigued. When I put the book down this afternoon, Raulff was writing about the centaur, the half-man/half-horse figure of Greek mythology, and about how that being made of two parts became two separate creatures and what that means. Raulff claims that the reason humans have so bonded with the horse is because of its speed. In that I would disagree. Ask any adolescent girl why she loves horses, and she’ll describe their gorgeous bodies—the ridiculously long head, the feathery tail and mane that sweep behind, the thin legs flying above the ground. 

Savory Moment

On Sunday morning it snowed—big, fat, soft flakes. By that afternoon the sun was out and the temperatures were warming, and the whole world around my little village was sparkling. (See photo above)

Upcoming Schedule

Next year my Bali from Within trip (March 2-14, 2020), which I’ve been offering since 2008, will include three stops to find and make beauty at wounded places, which is the focus of my newest book and the organization Radical Joy for Hard Times. Even in Bali, where art, spirituality, and nature are interwoven, the land is hurting. Next year, we’ll visit some of these places with our Balinese guides to to bring attention and beauty, for example:

  • a river that’s drying up because of tourist development for hotels and spas
  • a clove forest that has been damaged by the excessive rains of climate change
  • Tanah Lot, one of Bali’s most sacred and scenic temples, slated to be in view of a multi-million dollar hotel and golf course proposed by Donald Trump

Click the link to read more about Bali from Within and download an itinerary.

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Order my new book, filled with ideas for making bold, beautiful, simple creative gifts for wounded places in nature and
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Trebbe Johnson · 396 N. Applegate Rd. · Ithaca, NY 14850 · USA

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