A Glorious Ignoramus

The other night, I found myself in one of my favorite situations, sipping wine around a table with new friends and old, talking about the nature of life, love, and the human condition. I was in the room courtesy of Nic Askew, a filmmaker who I first met in London thirteen years ago when he shot a little film with me called God and the Chocolate Ice Cream. (I just re-watched the film for the first time in years, and noted both how much my view of things has changed and how much the questions at the heart of the film about reconciling spirituality and materialism are still at the heart of my work.)

At one point, Nic shared a poem he’d recently written called “The Glorious Ignoramus”:

I don’t know.

But I know that
I don’t know.

I love that
I don’t know.

That I can
never know
for sure.

So I have
stopped
looking to
understand
you.

Or convince you.

And now,
finally,
I can
see you.

I am a
glorious
ignoramus.

While at first I balked at the seemingly self-deprecating label of “ignoramus”, he pointed out that in Latin, the word “ignoramus” literally translates as “we do not know”, a state of being that is not only intimately familiar to me but one I’ve learned to value as a direct gateway to pure presence.

Here’s how I wrote about it in The Space Within:

As I learned more about the nature of the inside-out understanding and came to see the black-and-white nature of the mind, I realized that all the stress and struggle I’d been experiencing wasn’t because I didn’t know what to do: it was the effect of thinking I was supposed to be able to figure my life out with my little brain and its limited information and experience.

As I came to see that I could rely on a deeper, more impersonal intelligence – what some might call ‘intuition’ or ‘guidance’ or ‘inner knowing’ – the idea of trying to force an answer and operate under high levels of self-induced pressure and stress seemed like less and less of a good idea.

Over time, it became apparent to me that there were three things about the mind that I could absolutely rely on:

1. When I know, I know. When I don’t know, I don’t know.

2. There is a deeper wisdom available to me at all times which I can hear most easily when I’m in a settled, reflective state of mind.

3. I know that I’ll know when I know.

Now, to the extent that I see the first thing, I dive in when I know and don’t try to make myself seem smarter than I am when I don’t know.

To the extent that I see the second thing, I relax in the face of the unknown and simply stay in the game until an answer appears.

And to the extent that I see the third thing, I have the patience to stay outside the world of pressure and struggle that gets created when I think I’m supposed to know something before I do…

This is the mind at its best – operating in the clarity of knowing or not knowing without the infinite shades of gray that come with trying to force an answer or ‘make things happen’.

In short, we are all “ignoramuses”, doing our best to navigate our lives based on either a collated database of life experience and other people’s good ideas or the moment by moment unfolding of our own deeper wisdom. When we access the database, we tend to struggle. When we allow ourselves to simply be with the unfolding, we experience the glory of living in harmony with all that is.

Or in the words of the mystical poet Rumi:

Leave thinking to the one who gave intelligence. In Silence, there is eloquence. Stop weaving, and watch how the pattern improves.

With all my love,

 

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