“I know one thing: that I know nothing” ~Aristotle
I want to figure things out. I want to know what life is about. I want to know that I am doing the right thing. 6 years ago, I thought I had done just that. I had been reborn into a new understanding. I finally had all the answers. Well, I didn’t quite have all the answers, but I had the ones that mattered most, and I could use them to determine the right course of action in most any situation. About a year ago that all went out the window, when people started asking me questions I could not answer, and poking holes in my belief system. Some of these holes were small, and could be ignored (In fact that is exactly what I had been doing with them) but others were quite large, and things were beginning to fall apart.
Seeing my situation, I retreated. I pulled myself back to a point of not knowing. “I don’t know” was my new mantra, and I shouted it from the mountain tops.
Over the coming months, I studied many different religions and philosophies, just to gain some perspective. I read the Tao Te Ching, and I really liked what it had to say. I often came back to it, pondering the wisdom that it contained. “This is good stuff” I thought. “This will really help me live my life well,” “It’s so simple, this is why people have so many problems! If only they could follow this simple advice!” I didn’t realize it, but I was coming back to a very familiar place. A place of having it all figured out. It is a dangerous place to be, and it makes learning very difficult.
One day I was at work, and listening to the Tao Te Ching on YouTube. The last chapter was read, and they there was a brief commentary afterward. Included in this commentary was a quote from Shunryu Suzuki that made me realize I did not at all understand the philosophy that I was coming to rely on.
“There is a big misunderstanding about the idea of naturalness. Most people who come to us believe in some freedom or naturalness, but their understanding is what we call ‘Gyen ken gedo’ or heretical naturalness. A kind of let alone policy or sloppiness. For a plant or stone to be natural is no problem, but for us there is some problem, indeed a big problem. To be natural is something we must work on.” ~ Shunryu Suzuki
That “misunderstanding” as he calls it was exactly the way I had come to interpret the the message of the Tao. How embarrassing. I have been given, once again, an opportunity to learn this lesson.
“If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything, it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few. ” ~ Shunryu Suzuki