chapter  1
16 Pages

Knowing from the inside

Know for yourself! That was oftentimes the only advice my companions would offer when, as a novice fieldworker among Saami people in north-eastern Finland some forty years ago, I was stuck as to how to proceed with some practical task. At first I thought they were just being unhelpful, or unwilling to divulge what they knew perfectly well. But after a while I realised that, quite to the contrary, they wanted me to understand that the only way one can really know things – that is, from the very inside of one’s being – is through a process of self-discovery. To know things you have to grow into them, and let them grow in you, so that they become a part of who you are. Had my companions offered formal instruction by explaining what to do, I would have had only the pretence of knowing, as I would find out the moment I tried to do as I was told. The mere provision of information holds no guarantee of knowledge, let alone of understanding. Things, as proverbial wisdom has it, are easier said than done.