We’ve lost count of the times we’ve thought “We don’t know what we are doing!” as we work, pursue ideas, navigate crises, move through our day, week, year. And we’ve lost count of the times we’ve heard friends say the same thing.
We are reminded of 4th-century Chinese Taoist philosopher/poet Chuang Tzu’s words that echoed a similar feeling, and added an always-present component: feeling that other people have it together, that we alone suffer from NOT KNOWING WHAT WE ARE DOING.
I alone am inert, showing no sign, like an infant who has not yet smiled.
Forlorn like one without a home to return to.
I have the mind of an idiot, so chaotic and dull!
Ordinary people are bright and intelligent —I alone am chaotically dull.
Ordinary people are farsighted—I alone am blindly chaotic!
It is heartening to see our feelings echo back centuries. The Taoists, and many others, found this chaotic state of not knowing to be essential to growth. It can allow for a build up of discomfort and questioning that leads to new paths.
But we guard against comparing ourselves to others, a common affliction when we are bombarded daily with images of carefully curated and edited lives. It becomes a kind of violence of self-criticism the diminishes all that is unique about ourselves… Like the great poet Chuang Tzu comparing himself to ordinary people.