March 7, 2022
I won’t speak for you, but I want to know how the war in Ukraine is going to end. I want to know now. I want to know if we are through with the crisis of Covid-19 or if another variant will emerge this spring or summer or fall with all its turmoil and grief. I want to know now. I want to know if I will still be alive tonight as I begin to think about our evening meal, and I want to know now. Our desire for certainty masks our false sense of control because the truth is that we cannot know what is going to happen next. We may predict, but we cannot know.
In the Not Knowing
It is a bright March afternoon
foreshadowing the spring to come
but not yet.
Forecasters predict possible
tornadic activity, falling temperatures
At this present time, with the presence of war, life feels very unstable, but life has always been unstable. This reality is not something any of us wants to easily admit. We also don’t want to accept that our biases, our convictions, our perceptions that may have influenced us since our births are not the only “true” ones and that our personal biases, convictions, and perceptions are not what make the world go round.
I barely catch a glimpse of them
as I drive by. The red blanket
spread on the green lawn
catches my eye, the young woman
sitting there, head tilted back
in laughter, dark hair spilling
down her yellow sweater.
Accepting our not knowing, then, becomes a spiritual practice and a way of staying grounded in the flux of our ever-changing, unpredictable world and lives. In the Zen tradition, not knowing involves letting go of our rigid perceptions about ourselves, others, and the world, releasing all our “isms”: racism, sexism, classism, etc. It is a form of compassion that involves meeting life without any preconceived ideas, interpretations, or judgments. In the Christian tradition, not knowing is similar to the practice of Centering Prayer where we sit in silence, empty ourselves of ourselves, and allow the Spirit to pray and work within us, without our interference. Not knowing can be expressed in many forms of mindfulness, meditation, and other types of contemplative prayer and practice that guide us to a place of stillness ( where “I AM” dwells) and that help us to stay in the present moment, where Truth resides. Not knowing does not lead to indifference, indecision, inaction or complacency but instead helps us to become more aware of what we choose to let in and more open to what we might have previously excluded.
A jean-clad man, standing on the edge
of the blanket, smiles, holds
a basket while a chestnut-colored
Lab lounges at the woman’s feet,
the trio complete.
In this Lenten Season, as a way of being, the practice of not knowing, of giving up any self-righteousness, rigidity, and control resonates with me. It is also a way to make real the peace that the Christ promised, a peace that is “not as the world gives . . . so do not let your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:26–27).
This moment is all they know
all they need to know-
a front yard picnic
on a bright March day-
none of us knowing what tomorrow
© Rosemary McMahan
Image credit: Pixabay