It was Joseph Campbell from whom I first heard this Rilke quote: “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” from Letters to a Young Poet.
Today, as I was listening to a recent book by Rebecca Solnit, Recollections of My Nonexistence, I heard echoes of that same piece of wisdom, “Perhaps I will always live more in questions than in answers.”
There are those who are sure of themselves: they know who they are, where they belong, from where they came, and where they are going. I understand the comfort of sitting in the middle of truth all comfy-cozy in a pretty house surrounded safely by a white picket fence. It’s a place protected from the relentless seas of uncertainty and confusion.
I didn’t always understand that my life is more a quest rather than a destination (other than death). I’ve paused on many an island of safety and certainty as I’ve tacked hither and yon on this restless sea. I’ve had moments of certainty in the conclusions I’ve embraced. I’ve hunkered down with these companions of truth and light setting up my tent, shedding my questions like a snake wiggling out of her skin.
However, after a period of time my new skin becomes too tight and once more needs to be shed as I slink back to my boat and take to the tempest sea once more, ever searching for the biggest truth I can find.
This tendency, this leaning into the winds of disquietude, has served me well and has – in fact – become my destination. It’s the search itself that is my purpose, my illusive harbor. It’s the longing for the biggest truth that holds me steady in the storm as I pursue an awakened life. It’s my companion as I research and conduct the interviews, read all the books, and have deep dialogues with friends.
Daniel Boorstin once wrote, “The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance – it is the illusion of knowledge.” For me, this openness is the key and as spiritual teacher Estelle Frankl says, “[It is] the paradox that lies at the heart of the spiritual quest.”
My challenge is to be comfortable with this ever-expanding truth. For decades I’ve attempted to put a name to God. As a child he was a father figure in the heavens watching over me to whom I prayed. Through the years he morphed into many other forms and non-forms until recently I’ve come to this newest iteration of the ineffable.
“God is the quantum field of infinite intelligence and Love: A divine and dynamic force of energy in which all life is embedded including us. A force that exists within everything, enlivens everything, and from which everything is made manifest.”
This came to me when I learned of the work of the Nobel prize-winning physicist, Max Planck who declared in 1931: “I regard consciousness is fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything we talk about, everything we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.”
And all this leads me to the emergent edge of everything always unfolding as each of us does our part to contribute in positive ways to its manifestation.
So, I’m feeling a bit more comfortable with the process of sailing the seas of the ever-widening arc of possibilities. And, I invite you, dear reader, to join me in the pursuit of increasing our tolerance for the unknown and to become joyful in uncertainty.
-Justine Willis Toms