On Knowing and Not Knowing

William's SCL talk

Almost Everything is the title of Anne Lamott’s upcoming book. I think the title is short for “Almost everything I know for sure.” Our School for Contemplative Living will bring her to New Orleans to speak from the book on October 20, four days after it is published. And yes, you can buy a ticket to hear her speak, which will include a copy of the book.

Her TED talk on YouTube gives a hint of what her book and talk will focus on: everything from life to death, truth as paradoxical, grace, chocolate, aging, and writing. Her theme is “What I know for sure,” in an age where “alternative truth” and blatant lying has become a norm.

So, I got to thinking about the paradox of “knowing for sure” and “not knowing.” And I have to say that one of the great gifts of walking through life as a contemplative is slowly learning to accept “not knowing” as a path. I do NOT mean that we cannot really know what is true. That is the current political myth in America. I do mean we can learn the humility of becoming comfortable with not knowing much with certainty, we can hug our own not knowing, even as we stand firm on what little we do “know for sure.”

I wonder if each of us might compile our own list, as Anne Lamott has done, affirming our own “What I know for sure” and humbly adding “What I don’t know.” My list starts here:

“What I know for sure,” by first-hand experience, comes from Thomas Kelly’s A Testament of Devotion: “Deep within us all there is an amazing inner sanctuary of the soul, a holy place, a Divine Center, a Speaking Voice, to which we may continuously return.”

After that, the list gets very personal: I know I love my family, deeply, no matter what. I know I love to gather people and sit in silence together. I know practicing the presence of God is True Home and sharing that is my mission. And I know I love milk chocolate with caramel and sea salt. After that it gets a bit fuzzy, except I know I am comfortable with not knowing much of anything these days and am uncomfortable with people who act like they know everything.

What about your lists of knowing and not knowing? Get to work on them, share them when you are ready, and come hear Anne Lamott’s list with us October 20.


About soulcare4u

I am the author of Monks in the World: Seeking God in a Frantic World, published by Wipf & Stock and available through Amazon.com; and of a blog on Wordpress.com, "A Contemplative Path." I serve as the founding spiritual director of The School for Contemplative Living (www.thescl.net), adjunct faculty of Loyola University, and as a pastoral counselor and spiritual director in private practice.
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