To Know is to Be Changed

“We want a kind of knowledge that eliminates mystery and puts us in charge of an object-world. Above all, we want to avoid a knowledge that calls for our own conversion. We want to know in ways that allow us to convert the world–but we do not want to be known in ways that require us to change as well.

To learn is transformation. To learn the truth is to enter into relationships requiring us to respond as well as initiate, to give as well as take. If we became vulnerable to the communal claims of truth, conversion would be required. Our knowledge of the atom would call us to the patient work of peacemaking, not mindless acts of war; our knowledge of human nature would call us to the difficult task of cooperation, beyond our easy instinct to compete; our knowledge of nature would call us into careful nurturing, not careless exploitation, of the earth. But we find it safer to seek facts that keep us in power rather than truths that require us to submit. Objectivist education is a strategy for avoiding our own conversion. If we can keep reality “out there,” we can avoid, for a while, the truth that lays the claim of community on our individual and collective lives.

-Parker Palmer, To Know as We are Known

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