One day while driving in a rented mini-van down the interstates of San Fransisco with my brother Ryan, he told me a quote that I think about every day. One of his buddies from UnCollege told him it while they were on a volunteer trip in Indonesia: “There are no good answers, just good conversations.”
Answers imply truths. They imply beliefs. They imply ultimatums, if you go down that road.
Conversations imply curiosity. They imply questions.
I guess the reason we latch on to answers is built into human nature. We don’t do too well in uncertainty. There’s always big lurking questions: What happens when we die? How did we get here? What is the right thing to do? What’s the meaning of all this?
When did we stop chasing these questions ourselves?
When did we start rote memorizing answers?
Do these answers provide us with actual peace? Or a piece-meal, half-baked appearance of peace?
Also, is it not true that all the great thinkers — Lao Tzu, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Friedrich Nietzsche — were mystics?
If God is real, then wouldn’t a deep curiosity — staring deep down the void of doubt and uncertainty — be utmost respect for things we cannot understand.
Was it all meant to be understood, written down, in plain English to be memorized? Is this respect?
To close I’d like to share a passage from Anthony De Mellos’s book Awareness:
Believe it or not, every concept that was meant to help us get in touch with reality, ends up by being a barrier to getting in touch with reality, because sooner or later we forget that the words are not the thing. The concept is not the same as the reality. They’re different. That’s why I said to you earlier that the final barrier to finding God is the word “God” itself and the concept of God.
My hope is that doubt has a seat in the church. Whatever church that may be. Please, please, don’t give doubters your sympathy. That only goes to show your own deap-seated fear of uncertainty. My hope is that mysticism will be explored. That people can decide things for themselves — as all the greats have done, including Christ.
The tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal Name. … Darkness within darkness. The gateway to all understanding.
For further reading I’d highly suggest:
- Tao te ching (Stephen Mitchell’s version)
- Out of your mind by Alan Watts
- Awareness by Anthony De Mello