the knowledge freak-out

I have this thing about knowledge. I like knowledge. I crave knowledge. I want to have knowledge, and I enjoy sharing knowledge, and sometimes it feels really neat to possess a bit of knowledge that other people don’t know. It’s cool when people realize I keep this store of knowledge, that they can ask me questions and I will answer them.

It is interesting to observe me in group dynamics. I look for the person with the most knowledge in the context, and I try to attach myself to them. I may make inside jokes or bring up some shared experience, to show everyone else that I have knowledge, enough knowledge to sit next to the guy who knows the most. It’s not a terribly attractive trait, and I wonder how much others perceive of this.

You see, if I’m not in on knowledge, it makes me a little bit crazy. When other people are making decisions based on knowledge I don’t have, I get anxious. If I don’t know all the things, then how do I know what to do, what to say, how to act? I’m a hoarder of facts, unable to discard even the mental sticky-note that had a grocery list on the front and the name of my best friend’s mother’s ailing beagle for whom I should pray. My mind is filled with hundreds and thousands of data points, as if all the fortune cookies in the world disgorged their contents into one eight-by-eight room.

I’ve been promoted at work, and two other analysts work for me now. I’m stepping back from certain responsibilities, helping my new reports to fill those. They go to meetings in my place, so I don’t hear all the things they do. And as I step back, I realize that I don’t have all the knowledge any more. But holy crap! I need the knowledge! I need to know what’s happening! Otherwise the whole world will be out of control!

The truth is nothing so dramatic, so I can occasionally laugh at myself for this sin of greed and pride. I don’t need the knowledge – there is lots and lots and lots of knowledge in the world that I will never even see. The whole world is not out of control; my whole world is not out of control. God has a plan. God has had a plan since before creating everything there is, and God will still have a plan at the time of the Parousia, when we surround the throne in our white garments and sing Holy, Holy, Holy to the God who is all in all.

Despite this, I still feel anxious when I see a group head off to a meeting that I’m not attending. My cubicle is just outside the boss’s door; I tolerate the many distractions for the sake of the knowledge I gather from (over)hearing his conversations. I learn so much just from sitting here – so much of the currency I crave the most.

I’m freaking out a little this morning. I watched people head down to a meeting that I am not included in – by my own choice! – and I felt anxious about the not-knowing. I overheard some conversation in my boss’s office that included lots of knowledge, in particular, that there was dissatisfaction with a document I okayed for delivery to the development team. I have great fear that I work on documents, and I make beautiful diagrams, and I will write solid test scenarios, but that it is all irrelevant. If all my knowledge is irrelevant, then what do I have to barter with? what exclusive knowledge do I have that lets me feel prideful and superior? how do I get in good with the boss?

I fear a scarcity of knowledge, the way many fear a scarcity of food or of cash or of vaccines for terrifying illnesses. And fear makes us do really dumbass things.

So this morning I pray for everyone who is afraid, for everyone who sees the scarcity and not the vast abundance, for everyone who struggles with anxiety or panic attacks. I pray for everyone who hoards, whether they hoard physical items or intangibles like knowledge. Good Shepherd, free us from our fears; show us how ridiculous they are; and help us set our gaze on you alone; through your mercy. Amen.

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