Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Longer I Live The Less I Know

Recently one of my friends, who is a minister, made the following statement. He said, "I really don't like to preach anymore. People in my congregation expect me to have all the answers. The deeper I go into the spiritual life, the less I know". These may not have been his exact words but they convey his meaning. I know exactly what he means. I have never been a person who required absolute certitude about everything but I have spent much of my life seeking knowledge and spiritual fulfillment. In some ways I am at my intellectual peak. However, more often than not I feel like my friend. The more knowledge I have acquired the less I know for sure. My life is full of doubt, a fair amount of cynicism, and more questions than answers. Throughout my life I have heard people say, "Ignorance is Bliss". In my doubt and in my unknowing I am content if not in bliss. I no longer feel the need to know and understand everything. No amount of understanding can explain most of life anyway. The world is a collection of riddles wrapped in enigmas. On many levels life makes little sense. We won't even go into whether or not life is fair. One glance at the morning newspaper or the evening news quickly shows you that life is not fair. We do not all equally share the riches of the world or its pain. The Buddhist teacher, Aryadeva, says in his text Four Hundred Stanzas, "Pleasure, when prolonged, is seen to change into pain. Pain, when prolonged, does not change into pleasure". Although it seems that the longer I live the less I know, one thing I do know for sure is that I will die someday. What I do not know is when. Death is the only certitude I have. As the Buddha says, "A place to live unharmed by death does not exist. Not in space, not in the sea, nor if you stay in the midst of mountains". So, with the certitude that my current life will end someday, and carrying the backpack of Unknowing, I will continue to blissfully and lightly walk through my life. Rather than mourn my increasing lack of knowledge, I will delight myself with the knowledge that I do not need to know. By not focusing on knowing I am free to simply be.

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