Daily Riches: In Praise of Uncertaintly and Doubt (Maria Popova and Wislawa Szymborska)

“Doctors, teachers, gardeners—and I could list a hundred more professions. Their work becomes one continuous adventure as long as they manage to keep discovering new challenges in it. Difficulties and setbacks never quell their curiosity. A swarm of new questions emerges from every problem they solve. Whatever inspiration is, it’s born from a continuous ‘I don’t know.’ In a sentiment of chilling prescience today, as we witness tyrants drunk on certainty drain the world of its essential inspiration, Szymborska considers the destructive counterpoint to this generative not-knowing:

All sorts of torturers, dictators, fanatics, and demagogues struggling for power by way of a few loudly shouted slogans also enjoy their jobs, and they too perform their duties with inventive fervor. Well, yes, but they ‘know.’ They know, and whatever they know is enough for them once and for all. They don’t want to find out about anything else, since that might diminish their arguments’ force. And any knowledge that doesn’t lead to new questions quickly dies out: it fails to maintain the temperature required for sustaining life. In the most extreme cases, cases well known from ancient and modern history, it even poses a lethal threat to society.”

This is why I value that little phrase ‘I don’t know’ so highly. It’s small, but it flies on mighty wings. It expands our lives to include the spaces within us as well as those outer expanses in which our tiny Earth hangs suspended. If Isaac Newton had never said to himself ‘I don’t know,’ the apples in his little orchard might have dropped to the ground like hailstones and at best he would have stooped to pick them up and gobble them with gusto. Had my compatriot Marie Sklodowska-Curie never said to herself ‘I don’t know’, she probably would have wound up teaching chemistry at some private high school for young ladies from good families, and would have ended her days performing this otherwise perfectly respectable job. But she kept on saying ‘I don’t know,’ and these words led her, not just once but twice, to Stockholm, where restless, questing spirits are occasionally rewarded with the Nobel Prize. Such surrender to not-knowing, Szymborska argues as she steps out into the cosmic perspective, is the seedbed of our capacity for astonishment, which in turn gives meaning to our existence…. Granted, in daily speech, where we don’t stop to consider every word, we all use phrases like ‘the ordinary world,’ ‘ordinary life,’ ‘the ordinary course of events’ … But in the language of poetry, where every word is weighed, nothing is usual or normal. Not a single stone and not a single cloud above it. Not a single day and not a single night after it. And above all, not a single existence, not anyone’s existence in this world.” Maria Popova

“I have said things that I did not understand,
things too great for me, which I did not know.”
Job 42:3

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Are you ever “drunk on certainty?”
  • Can you gladly embrace “not knowing?” …doubt?
  • What do your answers say about you?

Abba, help me see past the “ordinary.”

For More: Map by Wislawa Szymborska

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Thanks for following my blog! – Bill

Daily Riches: Curiosity’s Own Reason for Existing (Annie Dillard and Albert Einstein)

“Down at the root end of things, blind growth reaches astonishing proportions. So far as I know, only one real experiment has ever been performed to determine the extent and rate of root growth, and when you read the figures, you see why. I have run into various accounts of this experiment, and the only thing they don’t reveal is how many lab assistants were blinded for life. The experimenters studied a single grass plant, winter rye. They let it grow in a greenhouse for four months; then they gingerly spirited away the soil—under microscopes, I imagine—and counted and measured all the roots and root hairs. In four months the plant had set forth 378 miles of roots—that’s about three miles a day—in 14 million distinct roots. This is mighty impressive, but when they get down to the root hairs, I boggle completely. In those same four months the rye plant created 14 billion root hairs, and those little things placed end to end just about wouldn’t quit. In a single cubic inch of soil, the length of the root hairs totaled 6000 miles. Other plants use water power to heave the rock earth around as though they were merely shrugging off a silken cape. Rutherford Platt tells about a larch tree whose root had cleft a one-and-a-half-ton boulder and hoisted it a foot into the air. Everyone knows how a sycamore root will buckle a sidewalk, a mushroom will shatter a cement basement floor. But when the first real measurements of this awesome pressure were taken, nobody could believe the figures.” Annie Dillard

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.” Albert Einstein

“Then God said, ‘Let the land sprout with vegetation….” Genesis 1:11

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Do you have everything pretty much figured out–whether you’re an apologist, or an atheist?
  • Did you leave behind your wonder at the world with your childhood? Have you lost your “holy curiosity?”
  • What, do you suppose, is curiosity’s “own reason for existing?”

Abba, help me comprehend a little of this world’s mystery every day.

For More: Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and he seeks you. I hope you’ll follow and share my blog. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest! – Bill

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”

Daily Riches: Knowing and Not Knowing (Richard Rohr, Tobin Hart and Eugene Ionesco)

“Over-explanation separates us from astonishment.” Eugene Ionesco

“We need transformed people today, and not just people with answers. I do not want my too many words to separate you from astonishment or to provide you with a substitute for your own inner experience. We all need, forever, what Jesus described as ‘the beginner’s mind’ of a curious child. A beginner’s mind … is the best path for spiritual wisdom. Tobin Hart writes: ‘Instead of grasping for certainty, wisdom rides the question, lives the question…. When the quest for certainty and control is pushed to the background, the possibility of wonder returns. Wonder provides a gateway to wise insight.’ Incorporating negative and self-critical thinking is essential to true prophetic understanding. At the same time, we must also trust that we are held irrevocably in the mystery of God’s love, without fully understanding it. Alongside all our knowing, accompanying every bit of our knowing, must be the humble ‘knowing that we do not know.’ That’s why the great tradition of prayer is balanced by both kataphatic knowing, through images and words, and apophatic knowing, through silence, images, and beyond words. Apophatic knowing is the empty space around the words, allowing God to fill in all the gaps in an ‘unspeakable’ way. Strangely enough, this unknowing is a new kind of understanding. We have a word for it: faith, a kind of knowing that doesn’t need to know and yet doesn’t dismiss knowledge either; a kind of knowing that doesn’t need to hold everything itself because, at a deeper level, it knows it is being held.” Richard Rohr

“For now we see in a mirror, dimly,
but then we will see face to face.
Now I know only in part;
then I will know fully,
even as I have been fully known.”
1 Corinthians 13:12

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Are you on a “quest for certainty?” Can you relax and let God “fill in all the gaps” where mystery or paradox prevails?
  • Does “over-explanation” (“too many words”) interfere with your “inner experience” of God? Has extensive doctrinal explanation led to “transformation” for you?
  • Are you willing to admit mystery? Are you committed to living humbly as one who can “know only in part?”

Abba, don’t let me spoil my relationship with you by too much certainty or too many words.

For More: “A Story Bigger Than My Own” by Debie Thomas

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”

Daily Riches: Wonder at the Wonder of Our Universe (Annie Dillard)

“Along with intricacy, there is another aspect of the creation that has impressed me in the course of my wanderings.  Look again at the horsehair worm, a yard long and thin as a thread, whipping through the duck pond, or tangled with others of its kind in a slithering Gordian knot. Look at an overwintering ball of buzzing bees, or a turtle under ice breathing through its pumping cloaca. Look at the fruit of the Osage orange tree, big as a grapefruit, green, convoluted as any human brain. Or look at a rotifer’s translucent gut: something orange and powerful is surging up and down like a piston, and something small and round is spinning in place like a flywheel. Look, in short, at practically anything – the coot’s feet, the mantis’s face, a banana, the human ear – and see that not only did the creator create everything, but that he is apt to create anything. He’ll stop at nothing. There is no one standing with a blue pencil to say, ‘Now that one, there, is absolutely ridiculous, and I won’t have it.’ …The world is full of creatures that for some reason seem stranger to us than others, and libraries are full of books describing them – hagfish, platypuses, lizardlike pangolins four feet long with bright green, lapped scares like umbrella-tree leaves on a bush hut roof, butterflies emerging from anthills, spiderlings wafting through the air clutching tiny silken balloons, horseshoe crabs…the creator creates…he creates everything and anything. …Of all known forms of life, only about ten percent are still living today. All other forms – fantastic plants, ordinary plants, living animals with unimaginably various wings, tails, teeth, brains – are utterly and forever gone. That is a great many forms that have been created. Multiplying ten times the number of living forms today yields a profusion that is quite beyond what I consider thinkable. … The creator goes off on one wild, specific tangent after another, or millions simultaneously, with an exuberance that would seem to be unwarranted, and with an abandoned energy sprung from an unfathomable font. …the creator loves pizzazz.” Annie Dillard

“The heavens declare the glory of God….” Psalm 19:1

 Moving From Head to Heart

  • Did this quote make you smile? worship? give thanks?
  • Are you in awe of the wonder all around you?
  • When is the last time you really experienced nature for yourself?

Abba, thank you for your beautiful voice in the creation.

For More: Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and he seeks you. I hope you’ll follow and share my blog. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. – Bill (Psalm 90:14)

 

Daily Riches: The Mystery of the Incarnation (Denise Levertov and Leah Rampy)

“It’s when we face for a moment

the worst our kind can do, and shudder to know
the taint in our own selves, that awe
cracks the mind’s shell and enters the heart:
not to a flower, not to a dolphin,
to no innocent form
but to this creature vainly sure
it and no other is god-like, God
(out of compassion for our ugly
failure to evolve) entrusts,
as guest, as brother,
the Word.”
Denise Levertov

“In the brokenness and chaos of our time, can we hope to live in a way that honors our longing for peace on earth? A contemplative path invites us to be fully open and present to what is, just as it is, in each moment. That is not easy. The instinct to look away from the violent and destructive is strong for us. The urge to flee, fight or freeze is wired deeply into our reptilian brains. We fear that when we look into the face of tragedy we will despair, yet, when we open our spiritual hearts and minds to what is, we find that the sacred is there, in the midst of sorrow and loss. It is a pure gift that we sometimes sense so clearly: we are lavishly loved as God’s creation.” Leah Rampy

“And the Word became human and made his home among us.
He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness, and we have seen his glory,
the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.
…From his abundance we have all received
one gracious blessing after another for
…God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ.”
John 1:14-17

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • The news of any day makes it difficult to “face …the worst our kind can do.” Has it also prompted you to face “the taint” in your own self?
  • Have you resisted the temptation “to look away from the violent and destructive …to flee, fight or freeze?”
  • It is in the context of our broken world and tainted selves that God “entrusts, as guest, as brother, the Word” … “the Unique One … near to the Father’s heart.” What feelings arise when you consider this?

Abba, may my response to the incarnation be an awe that cracks open my mind’s shell and enters my heart.

For More: The Collected Poems of Denise Levertov Paul A. Lacey and Anne Dewey (editors)

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”