Saturday, 9 August 2014

On World Peace & Not Knowing & Why Wonder Lines The Path of Peace Warriors

One of the hugest moments of realisation for me came in the darkened atmosphere of a lecture hall when I was 19 years old. I was sitting in an Anthropology lecture, trying to look as nonchalant as the people around me, who were writing copious notes and nodding along to everything we were being taught. 

But inside I was essentially having a huge freak-out. What was this guy talking about? How had it taken me this long to understand how little time humans had spent on the planet in relation to the history of the planet? Why had nobody ever told me how tiny and insignificant we were? 

I had so many questions but everyone else seemed like they were simply listening to a mildly interesting story. 

At the end of the lecture, I had to stay sitting down for a while. I remember it was as if there were a plane landing in my awareness. So obviously I could not move because I was the runway. Where would it land if I bounced off to a café like everyone else?

And as it landed, I was able to see what it was. It was a feeling, a wave, a stillness, an everythingness, a nothingness and it came with words attached: The only thing I can ever know is how little I know. 

I had no idea what to do with this but I remember exactly the moment it landed in my being. It was like becoming reacquainted with an old friend I had forgotten about but now that she had arrived, I somehow knew I had missed her.

'The only thing you can ever know is how little you know,' she whispered.

The next time I would come across this truth came quite a few years later. I was beginning the workbook of A Course in Miracles and turned to my daily lesson, which was entitled 'I do not know what anything is for'. This is the section of the workbook that aims to unpick the conditioning of the ego as part of the excavation that later reveals the True Self. 

The same relief washed over me. I knew this to be true - my bones confirmed it. 

And yet we walk this world thinking we do know. On the day-to-day level, we might think we know our partner inside out. Or that we just know what is right and what is wrong. We think we know why the moon and the sun do what they do each day. We think we know it is 3pm in the afternoon. 

And on a wider scale, we think we know what God is. We think we know who this God has chosen and who this God has rejected. And we start wars in the name of this God, thinking we are right. And we bomb people and we aim our bombs at hospitals and schools and children. And all because we think we know. 

And this is why this simple, often-passed-by truth - this ability to Not Know - is so vital if we want to be an open-minded, loving, mindful presence. It is why it is the key to peace - inner and outer. And it is the means for us to make a stand for peace in our own minds, in our own daily lives. And this has the power to create newness in the world we see because of how we see it. 

We must assume the position 'I do not know' if we want to tell the difference between our ego and our true vision. We must be open to the possibility that our current perspective might not be reliable. Our idea about someone or our perception of a situation we find ourselves in. Our picture of ourselves, our limitations. On what is right, what is wrong. Even in our response to wars and the bombing of hospitals and children. 

And we must get comfortable with this Not Knowing. We must learn to sit with and value the questions rather than believing that questions exist only as a stepping stone to knowing an answer. We need to embrace wondering and spaciousness and the Unknown landscapes of the In Between. 

And this means that we need to wonder about things rather than answer them straight away. When my son asked me this morning as we watched the ocean, 'Mummy, what makes the waves keep coming in?' there were so many things I could have said. I watched the ideas appear to me one by one in my mind. But the truth is the most powerful position here is to wonder, especially with a young child, who is finding his way with all these questions and wonders and concepts. And for me, as I learn to unlearn in order to make space for truth. 

'Hmm, I wonder...' I said, and, for the next ten minutes, with a rug on our laps, in a silent bid for world peace, that is exactly what we did. 

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