Saying I don’t know means I am OK without certainty and meaning. I’m OK with not having to choose what’s right. I don’t know. So it means I’m OK with the suspension of meaning. I don’t know, but I want to know. Mission Impossible. So instead of actively choosing meaning from the choices offered, I suspend logic. And yet I don’t suspend awareness or curiosity.
When I don’t know, the reference shifts from what is true to the open eye of awareness, empty awareness. Just looking. Just listening. And here is where faith comes in.
Faith is knowing that if you don’t know, meaning will be revealed in its own time. You create this vacuum into which meaning will rush. And you will be surprised because what rushes in has no reference to the known, to your past store house of knowledge. The unknown is as window into what does not exist yet. When you suddenly know something, a surprise, the known has just been created. You have brought it into existence. You know it. It exists because you know it.
We suspend disbelief (or the known) when we sit down for a movie. We know the movie isn’t real, but we suspend the need to know that, and therefore we enjoy the movie. But if someone pokes us in the movie, we turn on them because they brought us back into the known and the duality of the known of I and IT.
So this suspension of the known is really the non-dual. The known is dual: I know IT. That’s two. The known creates the sense of me. The known and me rise together. So when I suspend the need to know or the known, I suspend ME! And that is a sense of death. We don’t want to go there.
If I don’t know—and I want to know— but what is going to be known must be revealed; then I hold a space open. With practice the gap between not knowing and the surprise of a new known grows smaller. With me Writing and surrendering to the unknown become one. One is the writing. In the space of Not Knowing there is just the writing. But that is just my way. You must find your way.
What is my practice? I started writing on a blog journal in 2005 as a daily discipline, but not with effort as if I had to do it; I just did it. There were no readers, so there was no fruit. This is the teaching of the Gita, acting without concern for the fruit of the action.
Zorba the Greek is my movie guru. But instead of writing he dances. “In the world, I am your servant,” he says, “but when it comes to the dance, I am free. Who am I to tell my feet what to do.” So who am I to tell my fingers what to do?
In the action of writing there is no “I”. As I said, the “I” rises with the known. When the writing is spontaneous surrender to the unknown/known, the “I” is dissolved in the writing. But then I can stop and look at what I’ve written and it is the known or IT again with my “I” observing and judging it.
While my writing is what I do, what you do is BEING. A new word here. When you are observe what you do as if outside of IT, then you are separate from Being. Being is what you know. But what you know is always past, the known from your storehouse. What you know is just names and forms. But Being is the unknown or unnamed, and you can’t go there unless you don’t know Being’s name. That is another way of saying Not Knowing.
We all fall into this “suspension of the known” in our everyday lives, but it doesn’t fit on our cultural reality map. We are conditioned to know. To not know is weakness, especially for men. Men are supposed to know. So there is tremendous cultural resistance to Not Knowing. That’s why men don’t like to ask for directions.
But when we have a craft or an art, we surrender to this Not Knowing and let our fingers or feet or paint brush to just play with something until we get something that informs us, that surprises us, that we like. Always, it’s a surprise. And we like that. A child can’t wait to show Mom what he did. A child is always surprised.
And so Not Knowing is being like the little children who can enter into the Kingdom of God, as Jesus says. So how do we get to this mystical Not Knowing? There are a lot of activities that create Not Knowing or the Surprise in our culture, but then cost money. Movies are all based on the Surprise. Detective mysteries are all based on the Sherlock who suspends knowing until enough evidence has been collected, until there is as sudden SNAP when he KNOWS who did it. We love the surprise.
There is a willful or intentional desire to suspend knowing that comes from the realization that the known is dead, that the known is past, memory, and without life meaning. In fact, without surprise, I’m dead! There is no surprise in the known. You already know it. All you get out of the known is the pride in knowing it. There is no pride in Not Knowing.
Here’s an everyday practice.Enlightenment is everyday mind, says the Zen master. And you have an everyday mind, so you are enlightened, but you don’t know it. And if you did know it…haha…you still wouldn’t be enlightened. That would be the known. The enlightened is the unknown, that space of not knowing.
Have this intention today:I want to be surprised. I want do discover something I didn’t know. Now look for a situation, wait for a situation in your everyday mind where you are not certain, where there are multiple choices and they are all good or bad. You don’t know what to choose. Maybe you call your spouse, or a clerk or an expert. You have this unpleasant feeling of Not Knowing. Just rest in that. Be OK with that. Explore that feeling. Be curious about that feeling. Notice the tension in the need to know. Relax into not knowing…like you are just sitting on the back porch in open listening to the yard sounds around you. I know nothing. How does that feel?