Mourning Unknown Unknowns

snuffed out candle

Recent interactions have left me seriously contemplating life’s “what ifs” and “if onlys.” These musings aren’t fueled by feelings of regret for my own wasted potential, but rather a sense of longing and lament for all the potential beauty this world will never know but should have and would have known “if only.” I feel a sorrow akin to grief for the broken dreams that remain unspoken yearnings, dreams whose fulfillment may have brought such needed light into much needed spaces “if only.” Yet, we live so unaware of the radiance and vivacity that could avail an otherwise dimmed world.

In a Department of Defense briefing, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld stated the following:

“…there are known knowns…things we know we know [and] known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know. And if one looks throughout history…it is the latter category that tend[s] to be difficult…”

Although he was referring to uncertainty in the context of national security, I have to believe Secretary Rumsfeld’s logic transcends his specified topic. The things we aren’t even aware of not knowing are most problematic in life – the unknown unknowns – the most problematic, yet often, the least considered. I’ve heard too many stories of dreams, not just deferred, but destroyed by harsh critics whose scathing words seared shut the repository of creativity and resplendent joy the world will now miss out on. There are too many brilliant unknowns we’ll never even know we could’ve experienced because some careless comments damped the lamp that could’ve blazed a path for so many.

As I shared on Facebook, there’s something about wasted potential that saddens me to my core, something about knowing there are people whose light, and love, and beauty the world may never know, whose untapped genius may never change the world into what it might have been because it went unnoticed, or unappreciated, or worse, because mere mortals used mere words to dim the light that could’ve shone so brightly.

For some, those scalding words toughen them on the outside, never again letting pain dig to far in while never letting love all the way out, either. They strive harder and accomplish more, but do so in a spirit of rebellion against the rest of the world. You hear them echoing torts of the past, “I made it, no thanks to my teacher who said I’d never amount to anything.” By the time they’ve “made it,” they’re often hardened toward the vulnerability that could set this world ablaze with such ardor and grace. Even this type of “making it” causes the rest of humanity to lose out on what could have been if words of life were spoken instead. Sadly, yet another group exists — those who wilt under the scorching heat of wanton words, those who shrink back, who give up, who never bare their souls, whose torches have been tapered, whose greatness we’ll not experience.

If our words can revive even the faintest of heartbeats and bring life where death once loomed, if they could stir the smoldering embers, put a whimsical twinkle back into they eyes of those who would have lost heart, wouldn’t it be worth it to aspire to always speak life? Wouldn’t it be worth it to not have to mourn the unknown unknowns, to experience those things that we didn’t even know we needed in our lives and to help others produce those things they don’t yet know they’re designed to contribute, to minister to the hurts they didn’t know they could heal and do the unimaginable? What if our words of life could brighten each fading light by just one lumen? Couldn’t a change like that light up the sky?

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What if we each brightened one fading light?

21 responses to “Mourning Unknown Unknowns

  1. Have you ever thought about writing an ebook or guest authoring on other blogs?
    I have a blog centered on the same topics you discuss and would
    really like to have you share some stories/information. I know my subscribers would value your work.
    If you are even remotely interested, feel free to send me an e mail.

    • Hi Rebekah,

      I’m now seeing this because it went to my spam folder. I do write for other sites, but reply back or use the contact form on the prayer requests page to send me contact information. All the best. 🙂

  2. We are haunted in a way by Robert Frost’s poem The Road Not Taken. Every decision will frustrate going down an alternative path. Our sand of time and opportunity will be unique but incomplete. We must make quality decisions to walk in the Spirit. Happily, with obedience, the process becomes smoother and the restlessness subsides. Sister keep going back to Psalm 37 and Romans 8.Be at peace. Your portion is precious and foreordained. So is mine.

    • i believe in not fretting over evildoers, but i also believe wholeheartedly in rejoicing with those who rejoice and mourning with those who mourn! i believe we should ALL mourn the loss of the things i discussed above. most importantly, i believe GOD mourns them. i’m not in a perpetual state of sadness over it, tho..just glorifying God that my heart is touched with the things that touch Him. it’s my sincere belief that when we see unrighteousness acted out in this world, it’s sinful to not be moved about it. the post i wrote tonight clarifies that some more. i’m at peace; thx so much for your blessings and comment 🙂

  3. This is lovely. I pray this post finds it way into the hearts of many. Favorite line, “if our words can revive even the faintest of heartbeats…..” Definitely something that resonated with me and that I will remind myself of when I struggle to continue on the path of encouragement through the vulnerability I share in my writings. Blessings to you!

    • i definitely pray others are blessed by it, valerie! thank u so much for reading along and commenting. vulnerability..i believe that’s exactly what keeps us connected, as a society, and exactly what God uses to change lives. i’ve prayed your writings do just that, hon; glorify Him! 🙂

  4. Wow! This was stunning! Supper beautiful. I really love how encouraging this blog is. And the following statement from your post is amazing: “If our words can revive even the faintest of heartbeats and bring life where death once loomed, if they could stir the smoldering embers, put a whimsical twinkle back into they eyes of those who would have lost heart, wouldn’t it be worth it to aspire to always speak life?” Stunning! ‘going to share it on facebook 🙂 (btw, how do I fun you on there so I can follow you?)


  5. Doesn’t it aptly remind us of our world being formed by God’s word. He spoke light and life into existence. We ought to emulate God and speak words of life. Thanks for a reflective post.

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