the knowing

A recent installment of my treasured daily emails from The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor included a beautiful poem entitled Mozart with Kathleen by Bill Holm.

(By the way, I highly recommend you take advantage of the free subscription to those daily installments, and furthermore, that you click those links – the blue, underlined text – to see why.)

In that poem, the author relates the story of going to a piano in honor of the death of his friend, Kathleen, to play his half of a “four-hand Mozart”, a duet, he’s spent years trying to learn with Kathleen.  He describes the way her half of the piano – the bass – is “sadder now” because the tune has “disappeared into the winter air” and is now “closed for the season.”

The poem concludes with these lines:

“We’ll get it right yet, Kathleen, but only you and I will ever know or hear.”

After reading the poem, I forwarded it with a note to my daughter, Hannah, who also receives the daily installments, which we occasionally enjoy discussing.  In the note, I tried to relate the way I was profoundly moved by the poem.

This is what I wrote to Hannah:  “I like this poem.  The last line is perfect.  The knowing, even private, inexpressible knowing – maybe only private inexpressible knowing – means everything to the human soul.”

Strangely, I found those words were articulating something I’ve felt but have never been able to express because I had never understood the feeling in that way before.  They were a revelation to me, discovered as I trod through the swamp of thoughts evoked by the poem.

” . . . but only you and I will ever know or hear.”

The knowing.  The priviate, inexpressible knowing of a person who has spent years with a friend at the piano, and in her absence is able to hear her, to see her, to envision her movements and reactions and expressions in a way that only the intimacy of closely shared time and space could engender.

In such a knowing, there is the substance that means everything to the human soul.  The intimacy of the sharing of such a knowledge, the value of knowing another, and being known by another, which comes to us only through the gift of deep, communal relationships, becomes the substance and driving influence of our lives.

Perhaps it’s too much.  Perhaps I’m asking too much of the few words of the last line of a poem not intended to carry such a weight.

Let me make this more about me and less about the human race.  Perhaps those words can carry my pitiable, sappy, whiny weight, at least.

I want to be known in such a way that whether in my presence or absence, I am understood; in such a way, that the substance of my life, rather than the shell of my superficially witnessed character, is acknowledged, appreciated, desired, comforted, and needed.

As narcissistic as that may seem, it is nonetheless true.  It means everything to me.

Of course these words fail to adequately express the felt power of the private, inexpressible knowing.

The knowing.

To know and be known.

I’m grateful for the few people I know and those who know me, especially in those relationships carrying a deeper, more genuine knowledge.  Honestly, though, most of that mutual knowledge is extremely limited.

My mother knows me well enough, in the way that only a mother can, especially when she is also a true friend, but even her knowledge is limited.

My wife knows me best of all, after 22 years of married life, she’s seen and experienced the best and worst of my life’s expression.  This is the greatest gift I’ve ever been given, and as far as I can tell, it’s the closest I’ll ever come to being known by another person in the way I mean by this post.  But, it breaks my heart to acknowledge that even this knowing is limited.

Things stir inside me, thoughts come and go, and experiences move by so quickly, that my wife would have to be connected to my thoughts in ways humanly impossible to satisfy the deepest heartcry for knowing.

All of this brings me once again to a conclusion that may seem so obvious, but is so often taken for granted in our Christian circles because it seems so obvious:

I need Jesus.

I need to know him, and know that I’m known by him.  I need to know he sees and understands all of me, all of the substance of me.

The knowing.

It means everything to me.

6 thoughts on “the knowing”

  1. Undoubtedly my current circumstance combined with this (“the knowing”)
    post have struck a chord. To alter slightly a Socratarian quote, ‘the more I seem to know, the more I realize I do not know.’ To know … a very interesting Biblical word study. Jesus upon being accused of being demon possessed said “… you have not come to know(1) Him, but I know(2) Him; and if I say that I do not know Him, I shall be a liar like you, but I do know Him, and keep His word.”

    Two greek words ginosko(1) and oida(2). Quoting from Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words: “The differences between ginosko (1) and oida (2) demand consideration: (a) ginosko, frequently suggests inception or progress in “knowledge,” while oida suggests fullness of “knowledge,” e. g., John 8:55, “ye have not known Him” (ginosko), i. e., begun to “know,” “but I know Him” (oida), i. e., “know Him perfectly”
    Jesus KNEW the Father, my knowledge is incomplete, but is progressing. One of my life verses is:

    1 Corinthians 13:12 “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” How well am I known by the Father? …

    1 Corinthians 8:1-3 says … 1 “Now concerning things sacrificed to idols*, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. 2 If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know; 3 but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him.”

    So my knowing the Father is progressive, yet surely incomplete; while His knowledge of me is complete. My challenge is expressed in my life purpose statement … In thay day when I know as I am now known, there be no surprises…

    Jesus repeatedly tells us, in knowing Him we come to know the Father. In brief, AMEN, I, too, Need Jesus



  2. “only you and I will ever know or hear”

    This is a perfect line, as you said, expressing inexpressible thoughts. I always long to be who I really am, to be known as I really am. I tend to direct those feelings outwardly in expectation that the people around me will somehow play a part in fulfilling those desires. And though some come close, as you pointed out, only One can truly wrestle down the magnitude of that longing. I am continually reminded that what I really want is just Jesus. That’s it. How beautifully terrifying to realize that He really does know me! Everything, from the most dark and ugly parts of my heart to the ones that shine brightly. Knows me so completely, but doesn’t cringe away. “Only He and I will ever know or hear.” There is rest in that.


  3. For someone who refuses to have us over for dinner, you know me….weird. Maybe you are me? No, that couldn’t be true, because if I were you, I’d have me over for dinner…..

    Outside of Jesus, I don’t think anyone human has the grace enough to really be able to know me & still love me……


  4. I can only assume that Jesus wants exactly the same thing: to be known for exactly who He is. See past the religiosity, cut through the noise, and sit at His feet.

    Knowing and being Known. Is it even possible to have one without the other?


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