08.07.2020 – The Wisdom of Not Knowing

Welcome or welcome back.  While there’s something new about all this, there’s also something old as I continue a 20+-year tradition of weekly comments, reflections, and thoughts on life and faith – life lived faithfully and faith made real in life. After a six-week break, it’s good to be back!

Most of you know that Becky and I have just moved 630 miles west and are settling into a new house and a new community.  All’s well so far.

As we divide the labor for this move, one of the things I’ve taken on is address changes, closing old accounts and opening new ones, and figuring our drivers licenses and car registrations and things of that sort. Becky’s share of the labor is much greater.

When I told the Post Office about our new address, they asked if we would like to open an “Informed Delivery Account.” We said, “Sure, whatever Informed Delivery might be.”

Informed Delivery, it turns out, informs you of upcoming deliveries.  6 to 36 hours before the mail carriers are out on their rounds, the Post Office sends you an email or a text message telling you what you can expect to fill your mailbox in the next day or two.  At some point in the delivery process, they’ve scanned your incoming mail and send you a picture of the letter or package that’s on its way.

We’ve had some important mail sent and forwarded to us as part the move. Informed Delivery reduces fret time about “I wonder when it’s coming; I hope it does,” by 6 to 36 hours.  We haven’t had to use the feature yet, but if your mail gets lost between the scan and your mailbox, you can tell the Post Office, and I guess they’ll look for the prodigal piece.

You might say that Informed Delivery takes all the fun out of running to the mailbox to see if the acceptance letter or a note from grandma has arrived.  But who gets acceptance letters or notes from grandma in the mail anymore?

Good job, USPS. I like Informed Delivery. You’ve already saved me several hours of fret time.

We live in an information age, are informed about more topics and issues than has been any other generation.  Mostly, it is a good thing to be informed.  Informed decisions are generally better than uninformed decisions.

But sometimes we treat information as the magic elixir to cure all that ails us, to resolve life’s deepest dilemmas. With a little more information, we’d know how best to guard against pandemic’s infections. Informed of his troubled past or her anxious personality, we’d be a more compassionate or caring friend. Rightly informed views are bound to be just and good views, we think.  A little more information and we’ll be sure to make the right decision.

We should not expect so much of being informed.

Information by itself makes no judgement, has no way of perceiving the difference of good from bad, discerning right from wrong. Information cannot make a decision. Informed delivery is able to tell me to expect a letter today or tomorrow. The letter may inform me that my application has been accepted.  I still must decide if I’m going to go, or participate, or whatever – or not.

Information by itself can be a tyrant.  A recent New York Times article told of the development of an accurate test for Alzheimer’s Disease that will allow diagnosis long before symptoms appear. The test could be widely available in just a few years. The writer of the article added, “But the ability to diagnose Alzheimer’s with a quick blood test would also intensify ethical and emotional dilemmas for people deciding whether they wanted to know they had a disease that does not yet have a cure or treatment.

Old Isaac spoke for all humanity when he told Esau, “Behold, I am old; I do not know the day of my death” (Genesis 27:2). None of us knows the day of our deaths, though the Psalmist figures we’re on borrowed time past 80 (Psalm 90:10). The day – and the details – of our deaths is information we should not have.

When the disciples asked Jesus when he would be coming back, he told them it was information they could not and should not have (Acts 1:6-7).

The Preacher of Ecclesiastes tells us that much study – the gathering of information? – is a weariness (Ecclesiastes 12:2). Being informed without being wise does us little good. “Wisdom is better than might,” the Preacher says (Ecclesiastes 9:16).

Information is an important ingredient of wisdom, but more important still is truth.  The Gospel reveals God’s truth. Jesus tell us that the truth will set us free and that he himself is the truth.

Information can be a very good thing, but it can’t solve a single problem.  Adding truth transforms information into wisdom, and wisdom is much needed in our information age.

The mail carrier just delivered the mail to our box.  I already know what’s there, but I guess I’ll go get it.

It’s good to be back.