The Coach is In…

Is It In the Knowing or in The Now?

My good friend gifted me with a book by Thomas Merton (1915 – 1968), Conjectures of an Innocent Bystander. In the forward by Thomas Moore, Moore states, “Merton can urge us away from information for its own sake or from the illusion that we can know everything, and should, if we want to flourish. For him, faith is a way toward being, not knowing.”

I stopped and reread that part. It occurred to me that for much of my life I had both feet firmly planted in the world of “knowing.” Knowledge was my way of life. Education was about acquiring knowledge and regurgitating same on tests. A game of ‘what do you know.’ Rarely in high school was there a lot of applying what I knew. In college, there was a lot more independent thought and applying knowledge, but still, it was the world of knowledge.

The work world was a lot about mastering the key skills of a job. At its basic level, advancement was about demonstrating/applying what you learned. The better you did that the more you were rewarded (i.e., promotions, money, new jobs with more responsibility). You were ‘smart’ the more knowledge you acquired.

Thanks to I was able to learn how ‘knowledge’ is classified. I didn’t think my classification of ‘practical’ knowledge (useful for life), ‘interesting’ to know, and all other was sufficient.

Science ABC suggests that the two types of knowledge are Explicit Knowledge – something that can be shared through words and numbers and can be easily transferred. It is easily verified as true or false (i.e. there are 26 letters in the English alphabet. Tacit knowledge, on the other hand, is entirely personal, informal, and notoriously difficult to share or express. (This knowledge can be expressed in behaviors, actions, routines, habits, responses, instincts, senses, intuitions, and bodily experiences. This type of knowledge is also affected by our beliefs and values.) Within these two broad divisions are various other types of knowledge.

There is a lot of explicit knowledge that may or may not have ‘practical’ value. If we can’t apply/use the knowledge to help us navigate in our lives it often will be forgotten. When we are young and learning our colors, shapes, numbers, words the ‘practical’ knowledge may not be self-evident, so we learn them as part of pleasing our parents or caretakers. This continues through our formal education; knowing that we may be asked about some piece of knowledge on a test encourages our learning. Some things we learn because we are required to (not my favorite way to learn).

As we evolve in what we know we become more ‘sophisticated’ in understanding the value of knowledge/information. For some of us we enjoy ‘accumulating’ knowledge, sometimes just for the sake of knowing. I have found these folks make good trivia players.

At some point, as I was becoming me, I learned that there are limits to knowledge. Our health is an area where the ‘act of knowing’ doesn’t always connect with the ‘act of doing.’ It is a lot easier just to know than it is to do. We are surrounded by the best knowledge in how to care for ourselves, yet our hospitals, emergency rooms, and doctor’s offices are full of many who do not act on the advice they have been given.

I was in high school when I became aware of the notion that I was not just what I knew. That was a major discovery. Developing who I was separate from what I knew…well, it took a moment…many moments; the world around me seemed to value ‘smart’ people and people that had skills, particularly athletes.

College brought another opportunity to learn more about the me I wanted to be. It was the first time in my life that I became more intentional about my ‘being’ and not just my doing or knowing.

I could spend a lot of space and words describing what occurred over the four decades since college, but I don’t think that reading would do that much for you. Instead, let’s just summarize.

  • Knowing has always been important to me, but the importance has shifted. Knowing, and demonstrating knowing, were important in developing competency, a key element in my job and responsibility progression. Today, I’m more comfortable with not knowing. My sense is that it is a result of evolution, and learning to let go, knowing others can handle it, and being secure enough in myself to worry a lot less about what I know or don’t know. (Note: age also has a way of humbling you, you forget more, and that which you were sure of, well, I now say, “You may be right.”
  • An extension of the above. I am more comfortable with that which is uncertain, that is unknown. This is my faith at work. I have been a person of faith for many years, but I have learned how to ‘lean into’ that faith more in the last 25 years. When God continues to show up, often in miraculous ways, then your faith grows. As it grows it gets ‘some’ easier to deal in a place of unknown and uncertainty. It can be a very scary place. It can also be a place of peace, a place where knowing is not as important as being. It is in this place that I have learned a lot about who I was created to be. There is a serenity that is quite different from what I felt when I was firmly planted in the place of ‘knowing.’

Below, I have shared, with permission, a poem from my friend entitled, In The Now. The fitting end to this piece is to say that what I have learned to do more of over time is to drop the ‘K’ of Know, for the ‘N’ in Now.

Toward a better you…





Children are in the now.

They now more fully than

   most adults.

They now from the top

   of their heads

   through the tips

   of their toes.

They don’t concern them-

   selves with the past

   or the future for they

   are fully in the now.

Adults are in the know.

They know from the top

   of their head to the tip

   of their chins.

They are obsessed with

   their past

   and with their future

   for they are fully

   in the know.

They are wedded to the


   the now has been replaced.

One small consonant keeps the

   adults in the know so that

   their now is hidden from them.

To know is to love.

To now is to be love.

To know is to remember,

   and ruminate.

To now is to experience,

   and savor.

To know is to plan,

   and prognosticate.

To now is to play,

   and immerse in.

What a challenge it is

for adults to shed the ‘k’

of know so that the

wonder of now becomes

available to them.

 ©Richard W Smith, 24 December 2009