- TWIL (This Week I Learned)
This week I learned about mystery. I contemplated how much I don’t know. The range between blind acceptance and standing in the face of the vast unknowable.
I watched Seaspiracy and began listening to Deep, a book by James Nestor (author of Breathe) about free diving. Several walks in the woods and a few more deep conversations and near the end of this week, I knew I knew nothing.
For me, that’s where meditation and prayer step in. Contemplation is my answer to mystery. What’s challenging is to hold in tension that there will always be a large field of unknowable, of possibility, of potentially this, maybe that while also standing firm in reality.
Perhaps Donald Rumsfeld said it best?
“Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don’t know we don’t know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tends to be the difficult ones.”
― Donald Rumsfeld, The Found Poetry of Donald Rumsfeld
He’s right, of course. That last bit, the category that “tends to be the difficult ones(sic)” has been contemplated by Socrates. Wisdom is knowing what we do not know.
And tied to that is humility. Humility in this age can be a challenge. Many of us unfortunately have experienced toxic shame, where we oddly feel shame for something that is someone else’s wrongdoing (child sexual abuse comes to mind) or we feel shame for who we are essentially (the way our bodies look comes to mind)
Untangling humility from shame and low self worth is key to standing in the face of mystery, of the unknown in our life, and being okay in it.
What is humility? Maybe a quiet ego: that deep sense of knowing our strengths and our weaknesses, of deeply knowing we have essential worth and so being able to focus our attention on our place within the context of others.
Try writing out your strengths and weaknesses. It can be kinda challenging to just write down where you shine and where you don’t.
But in the meantime, try this: Get quiet and comfortable. Take three deep breaths in, and begin to bring to mind times when you have helped someone. What happened? Who did you help, how did you help?
Write down 3 - 5 of those. Your strengths. We’ll rest at strengths for today.
What’s a tricky signal that your ego needs quieting? Complaining. Yikes - I know. I said it. During covid times, no less.
This week, if you find yourself complaining, stop.
Pause. Pause and observe. Like worry, complaining can be a tricky one. It’s human, we all do it, but frankly, it isn’t super healthy.
Directly stating things that are hindering you from being your best? Great.
“Optimists see: A glass half full.
Pessimists see: A glass half empty.
Chronic complainers see: A glass that is slightly chipped holding water that isn’t cold enough, probably because it’s tap water even though I asked for bottled, and wait, there’s a smudge on the rim, too, which means the glass wasn’t cleaned properly and now I’ll probably end up with some kind of virus. Why do these things always happen to me?
The constant negativity issuing forth from chronic complainers presents a huge challenge for those around them. And nothing makes chronic complainers happier than being more miserable than their friends. Trying to remain positive, motivated, and productive amid a constant stream of complaints and dissatisfaction can try anyone’s patience.”
I’m guilty of complaining - absolutely. We all can be, especially when things are challenging in our lives.
Use compassion, but notice complaining as a signal that your ego needs quieting this week. If you do, you may be able to begin to hear the sounds of deep mystery around us. And that is a beautiful noise.
5. Level-UP / Go Deeper
If you are still with me, honestly, I feel that that is deep enough.
But a contemplative meditation might be a good next step. The Ignation Daily Examen prayers are a lovely way to introduce this into your life.
And here are the five steps:
1. Become aware of God’s presence.
2. Review the day with gratitude.
3. Pay attention to your emotions.
4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.
5. Look toward tomorrow.
And…here is a video to guide you through:
6. Video (This is a lovely video from Fuller. Christian)