One interpretation of Socrates’ claim that he knew nothing is that his wisdom is not to pursue a goal of fixed knowledge but to follow beckoning signs of an ever-elusive knowledge, to follow a direction without arriving at a final resting place, the presumed goal ever receding, thus making the target vastly uncertain, a path where questions outlast answers, and leave a Socrates or his pupil half empty-handed, in ignorance.
He does not have knowledge – he does not possess it the way we possess keys that had been lost and then found. The search for directional signs does not yield terminal answers.
Searching for truth in ignorance is like Eros always pulling, now and then subsiding, never finished. A Socratic search for truth models serenity and restlessness – serenity in the conviction that one is on the right path, that one has read the signs correctly – and restless, because reading one sign moves one ahead to discover yet another, worlds without end. Truth glimmers on the horizon, out of reach; it is not a key that my flashlight can light up. Well past middle age, I find myself as alert now to Socratic-religious beckonings as I was at 20, alert both to reassuring signs and to ignorance, both serene and restless. Love and insight, awe and ignorance, shouldn’t diminish with age.