Not Knowing

Sunday, October 5th, 2008

Susan Gibb raises pertinent questions in this post in her pursuit of Tomas in The Unbearable Lightness of Being. She writes

So Tomas has branded them [the Communists] as guilty; ignorance no excuse for action. Yes, I suppose I can justify the outrage, the blame-laying, and yet, there are degrees of guilt that should lessen the pain from the known and committed; the venial versus the mortal sin of the Catholic mind.

There’s another point to add to this. Tomas builds his thinking on Oedipus and concluded based on the king’s “not knowing.” But this is a special “not knowing”; it’s not meant, I don’t think, as a “should have known better” because, for Oedipus, the evidence pointed in every direction but to him. The special condition comes before with unconditional proof in the absence of proof, a stance of certainty, being so sure that paradise is just around the corner.

The special realm of poetry and fiction is not “to know” as a condition of being, but to consider and probe what is and or what presents itself. There are modern equivalents to the paradox of confidence or the paradox of faith and certainty.

We are drowning in them now.


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