Not-Knowing is Most Intimate

Day 38: I’ve been listening to dharma talk podcasts. In one of them, a talk by Max Erdstein of Audio Dharma, he relays a story of a monk in his teaching who said this: “Not-Knowing is Most Intimate.” (You can listen here.)

I adore this idea. It is an idea that I find over and over again in my life. It reminds me of a song by Antony and the Johnsons: Everything is New.

Everything is New. If you look at it right.

We can see this, by viewing the world independent of our conditioning,without preconceived notions. The idea is a bit like semantic satiation, but for the entire world. You may have experienced this if you’ve ever experimented with psychedelics: awe at the novelty of an everyday thing: a human hand, the shape of a blade of grass.

It’s the removal of a veil that we don’t know is there, the veil of the past, the veil of language, the veil of our conditioning.

Annie Dillard has a story about this in her book, Pilgrim at Tinker’s Creek: she recounts sitting at sunset with her dog and seeing suddenly a tree. She sees the tree. Sees it divorced from her everyday understanding of a tree, divorced from the archetypal tree notion/image that sits in all of our brains. And then in a moment it’s gone. She calls it the Tree With the Lights In It.

I love that these experiences are felt and recognized for their power and goodness across cultures, eons, traditions. These are the experiences that can change the world. These are the experiences that not enough of us have.

How can we encourage moments like these? How can we encourage wonder and awe and not-knowing mind? For ourselves, for our children? I think it may be sitting.

I hope it’s sitting.

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