Former United States Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld once famously said: There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know.
I subscribe to Word of the Day from www.dictionary.com. Most days I learn a word I don't know - this is an "unknown known." Someone else knows it but I don't. Some days though I find out the true meaning of a word I thought I knew. What I thought was a "known known" turned out not to be so known after all.
Knowing things we aren’t supposed to know can backfire on us too. If we knew what the surprise was wrapped inside a birthday present, we would deny ourselves of the joy of finding out what we least expect when we least expect it. The joy of unfoldment exceeds, by a country mile, the knowledge of knowing.
As soon as you think you know something, all you find is that there is yet more to know still. Spend just five minutes browsing some of the 22 million articles on Wikipedia and you’ll find there are many more "unknown knowns" for you than things you know.
What's remarkable though is that even with all the amazing knowledge humans collectively "know," there are infinitely more "unknown unknowns" still to know. What's more, some things you know that you know are best not to be known.
Take a beautiful sunset for example. You "know" the sun isn't really setting. What is happening is the bit of the Earth on which you are standing is rotating at over 1000 miles an hour away from the sun. This gives the illusion of the sunset but the sun hasn't moved relative to the Earth at all. Despite "knowing" this, we still choose to watch in awe at the splendour of the moment. If you are lucky enough to see the sun setting on the horizon, you "know" it has sunk into the sea. You also "know" it will rise like a phoenix the next day.
The true art of comprehension is both to "know" and to be comfortable with the notion that some things are best left as incomprehensible. There is an art to knowing what you need to know and what should be left unknown.
This we know ... discovery is a higher state than knowing itself.