I suppose the effort to understand has its place…
… as long as I do not take it too seriously.
Faced with the realities of life, I confront the inescapable consciousness of incomprehensibility. I am hemmed in on every side by the limitations of my ability to make sense of most things. There are so many events, so many people, so many circumstances that I just do not understand. No matter how hard I try, I face the fact that much of the time I am bewildered.
It is not just the things that unravel on the grand scheme of world events over which I stumble. It is not just the dark conundrums of the twisted story of history that bring me to the abyss of incomprehension. There are so many everyday tragedies that do not fit comfortably into my tidy vision of what life should be.
A long marriage breaks down. A child dies. A steady capable employee loses her job while an undisciplined opportunist moves up in the company. An unethical business person becomes fabulously wealthy, while a hard working labourer struggles to provide for his family. A teenager from a loving caring family descends into the dark terrain of addiction.
I am stunned by the weight of injustice, violence, and unfairness I see in life. Everywhere I look the scratch marks of confusion are etched on the wall of life.
I do not understand the uneven distribution of suffering, privilege, and material wealth. I am mystified by mental illness, suicide, betrayal in relationships, human sexuality, gender identity, greed, family violence, abuse of children, learning “disabilities”, deadly allergies, and politics. I am confounded by the mystery of beautiful poetry, music and art. My brain goes blank when I behold fabulous feats of courage and endurance. I cannot comprehend the daring of rock climbing or hang-gliding. Generosity, grace and forgiveness in the face of wrong are an impenetrable mystery.
Again and again, I run up against the limitations of my capacity to comprehend. More times than I can count, I return to the uncertain world of “I just do not understand.”
I see that my determination to make sense of life is driven by my desire to feel safe. If only I can figure out the painful realities I see everywhere I look, perhaps they will not hurt so much. Perhaps the chaos will calm, if I can solve the puzzle of what is really going on.
“I do not understand” is frequently code for “I do not like this,” or “I feel afraid or hurt by that.” I cling to the illusion that, if I could only make sense of circumstances that are not to my liking, I would magically be able to change these awkward moments.
At other times, I see that my compulsion to wrestle circumstances into some kind of rational order is fueled by a desire to distract myself from the discomfort and pain of life. It is a form of entertainment by which I seek to anaesthetize myself against realities I am powerless to change.
But, the hard truth is that I do not understand. All my grand theories and my vast sweeping explanations are little more than the dusty droppings of my brain crashing against the impenetrable wall of uncomfortable reality.
So, if cannot make sense of life, what am I do to with the painful realities I so often face?
The only thing I can do is to allow the unknowing to break me open to this present moment. Faced by the discomfort of my deep incomprehension, I can allow the circumstances to crack me open more deeply to the reality of what is.
The challenge is simply to sit with life, to settle and allow my consciousness to deepen and expand. By sitting with the unsolvable puzzle of life, I open to gentleness. A deeper knowing begins to emerge from the darkness of my bewilderment. Out of the space created by my willingness to not know, arises a deeper knowing in the present moment.
This wisdom is not grand and startling. It is subtle and quiet.This wisdom is less determined to figure everything out and more willing to act now, here in these circumstances, from a place of deep inner knowing that transcends all intellectual constructs or paradigms.
The power of fully embracing this moment moves me to reach out to people, responding to them with tenderness in simple acts of love and vulnerability. The wisdom of the present moment listens without judgment to the person who is in pain. It makes possible the compassionate act I miss when I am trapped in my brain’s determination to figure out what is going.
The wisdom I find when I stop trying to understand is the energy of love. At the core of my being this force of life is always present. When I stop distracting myself, my heart opens and the tincture of love seeps out in every gesture, word and action. This may be the only way forward in a world I so often do not understand.