If we do not know that we “do not know” then we will not seek any further and it is when we are sure that we know that we settle into mediocrity. When we realize that we do not know something, one of two things can happen: Either we turn away from the mystery of its unknownness, or we seek to find out more about it. Seeking to find out expands the borders of our life, of our mind, and of our spiritual awareness. Seeking “to know” works against mediocrity.
In order to understand the Divine some memorize a theology concerning the Divine; this, however, is not the same thing as knowing the Divine. The words and ideas that describe the Divine are not the Divine and cannot capture the Divine. Ultimately, only aspects of the Divine can be apprehended, but never Its totality: This is what is meant by speaking of the Divine’s Unknowable Transcendence.
So then… why should we even bother trying to know anything that we don’t know? We should bother because to grow intellectually, psychologically, emotionally and spiritually requires our willingness to stare into the mysterious abyss of all that is not us and to pursue wondering. Just because we can never know the Divine in Its totality does not mean that we cannot come to know anything, just as a beloved remains a mystery to us despite the facts that we can come to know about them.
On a recent trip to Hilo on the BigIsland I spent a lot of time beforehand looking at maps, trying to become acquainted with street names of 8 syllables or more, most of which seemed to contain the letter “k”. As I began driving around Hilo all the “k” streets started to merge and mingle in my mind, and at one point I panicked because I didn’t have my map with me and I had no idea where I was. I calmed down by reasoning that Hilo is not that big and that therefore I couldn’t possibly remain lost for too long before I would come upon something I knew. So I embraced the multisyllabic streets and just drove up and down and over. As I began to repeatedly stumble across a store or a building that I’d come to know, gradually Hilo laid out in my mind, and to the extent that 13 days could afford, I came to know an aspect of Hilo’s mystery.
Losing the map can be a good thing if we just stay calm and not let ourselves be panicked by the fact that we don’t know… whether it is a town, a beloved, or the Divine. Mystery is a good thing, if we embrace it.