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This present and wonderful ignorance

Posted by Simon Parke, 26 June 2017, 1.40pm

Sometimes we panic because we do know what’s happening.

Perhaps we suddenly lose our job, we lose our phone or a friend is diagnosed with cancer.

But in the end, the root of all our panic is that we don’t know what’s happening – and we wish we did.

So if I lose my job, I’m anxious….but I’m not anxious because I’ve lost my job.

I’m anxious because I don’t know what life is going to look like now: how I’m going to pay the rent…or the school fees?

(Yes, the rich also get anxious.)

In short, I’m anxious because of my present ignorance, the fact that I don’t know how things will pan out.

To get over this anxiety, some of us like to plan ahead, to have plans in place.

Plans give me the appearance of control…though really, I have very little of that.

I can tell you about my health, my relationships, my work and the world today. But concerning tomorrow, present ignorance is all I will ever know.

Things will not become clearer. (And why do we always imagine they will?)

And everything can change, for good or ill, regardless of my plans.

As former boxer Mike Tyson observed about people trying to plan their fight: ‘People’s plans don’t survive a hit in the mouth.’

The future doesn’t exist; and so neither do my plans, in any substantial way.

And so we reach a crossroads: we either allow this ignorance…or tie ourselves in anxious knots and seek pretend control.

And it will be pretend, for whether the present tide is with us or against us, our ignorance is a constant. 

But maybe it can also be home.

If daily we can touch our lack of knowing, if we can greet it and stay with it for a moment, breathing into it, breathing through it, laugh with it perhaps…

... then the world becomes a more present, more colourful, more mysterious, more adventuresome place.

‘I don’t know what the future holds and that’s all right.’

Though long believed to be a terror, this present ignorance turns out to be a friend.

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