Our NEED to Know

In life there are a lot of lines we have to learn to straddle. There’s the line between acceptance and hope. This is essentially what I’ve been talking about in previous posts. There’s another line however the one I’m addressing here, the line between the known and the unknowable.

I’ve been derailed by the election this last week, and more assuredly I will be today. So instead of fighting it, I’m going to lean in and talk about this waiting and wondering that’s been going on for the last TWO years.



So as a nation STANDS in LINES waiting to exercise the right to vote, lets talk about this line between the known and unknowable.


It is in our nature to want KNOW. I think this need for us to come up with solutions to all that is unanswered has something to do with our big evolved brains. If you feed any healthy adult brain a question it will work on computing an answer, often relentlessly, until it has something that satisfies it.


I think this is why I’ve recently been drawn to sports (I know this seems strange, especially for me) for this very specific reason of wanting an answer. With so much uncertainty in my life and in the world, sports offers something unique that every day life does not. An answer. Not only an answer, but an answer in a finite amount of time. At the end of a game, there is a winner and a loser, period, game over. There is a satisfaction to that.


Jokes also give us this “here’s a question and here’s your answer” kind of satisfaction. Why do you suppose we love puzzles? It’s brain candy right? Our brain digs a question it can work on answering.


We will chew and chew and chew on an unanswerable until we find something that satisfies our brain enough so we can move on. I think we have developed religion in part for this very reason. There is something called “God of the Gaps” that talks about this. This is the idea that religion provides answers for the unanswerable. So what do we do with something we can’t answer or the answer is a long time coming? We have to learn to be comfortable with the unknown. Because most of life is spent in the unknown. Because most of life is not the Steelers vs. the Raiders.


We have had two years of sorting and sifting through candidates, talking, watching, speculating, thinking, arguing, campaigning and finally we have come to the day of the decision. By the end of today we will know who the president of the United States is. Then, of course, as soon as that question is answered, new ones will surely be asked. How will he do in his new post? Who will he chose as his cabinet members? Will he be able to solve any of the many problems the last president dished up for a nation? You see, the questions don’t end with today’s president elect. They simply shift.


Aside from sports, puzzles and jokes, that’s exactly how life is. Life is mostly filled with questions. The ones that are hard to answer, exciting or painful to wait for, only yield to still more questions.


We need to straddle the line between a desire to know and being comfortable with the understanding that we spend almost all our time involved in the unknown.


3 responses to “Our NEED to Know

  1. Hi Rachel,
    I loved your blog entry. It is very insightful. It also stimulated my thinking about some other aspects of our relationship to the unknown. So I generated a blog entry about it. I would love your comments.

  2. If you want to go read Patricia’s blog post here’s the address:

  3. Yes, excellent post. Caused me to ponder about these past months with the campaign and election. There was also such distress in absolutely trusting in the unknown and fearing the known, which isn’t usually the case.

    As a psychotherapist, I was caught offguard by how many people prefer the known harm to an unknown safety. Interesting dynamics.

    The new presidency has brought to me, personally, hope and knowing of change, and wanting so much for our lives as Americans to be better.

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