Who am I to Know?

“Why are you so impatient?”

One day some old men came to Abba Anthony. In the midst of them was Abba Joseph. Wanting to test them the old man suggested a text from the scriptures, and beginning with the youngest, he asked them what it meant. Each give his opinions as he was able. But to each one the old man said, “You have not understood it.” Last of all he said to Abba Joseph, “How would you explain this saying?” And he replied, “I do not know.” Then Abba Anthony said, “Indeed, Abba Joesph has found thew ay, for he has said, “I do not know.”

August 6th, 2016

This story comes from the Sayings of The Desert Fathers. I have read this story over and over again within the past few years. It comes to me in a new light. Yesterday, I sat in the chapel of the St. Charbel Monastery in Bois-Seignuer Isaac. Dimly lit by candle light and the what light was filtered three thick windows, its walls set by brick and floors stabled by rock. For what may have been an hours, I sat before the alter in the cold, hollow silence. After reciting my prayers I asked, “Why am I here, why am I on this trip, what do I need to be made aware of?’

A voice quickly responded to these questions, saying: “Why are you so impatient?”

For a moment I sat feeling dumfounded. I laughed at this response and held a firm smile. That rounded face of mine was met with tears to such a reasonable answer. To myself I had to ask why I was so impatient to know these things of life.

Why? Perhaps because my whole life I have been asking this question with only answers that trickled from the tap. Sometimes, I would sit under the faucet to drink of every opportunity instead of going out in the world. Considering it, I think, in a vague way, I feel a lot more than I know a lot. Intuitive perception of the world, I suppose. For many, those sensations are not acceptable means of knowing. That I do understand, and because of my way of learning from the world, it is reasonable to believe then that I do not know, though I never stop trying to understand and be compassionate. This unknowing is beautifully purposeful, as it sets me down, rises me up, and continues to open myself to learn.

If I had the answers that I am looking for in my life right now would I have a sturdy, stable life? Would I wake up feeling less gravity upon my bones or a deeper stride in my step? Wouldn’t life be so much easier if I had the answers? Maybe, but having the answers will only distance me from the truth of all perspectives. Why would I want answers if I wish to keep growing or doing good in the world? If I knew the answers then why would I bother listening to others?

Someone at the monastery told me I was courageous for this trip. She wished should could do something like this. To me, this is not for pleasure, it’s for learning, painful learning. I asked her, what need do you have to meet by doing such a thing? If you know you are well-directed, then why change your trajectory just to arrive back to where you were with an empty-handedness.

Brother Seiruge once shared with me, “between two positions therein lies a truth.” As if to imply that truth exists as a harmony of understanding and familiarity between the networks of our perspectives. This leads us to acknowledge that no one person, of course, has the answer, only a solution that seems applicable to their understanding of the world. Taking conversation a different direction, what then is a truth? Is it way of life that is familiar? Is it a way of life that is simple, efficient, or direct? Is it an answer that leads to survival? For me, a truth is a way of life that leads us to being (pure beauty) through the Mystery. Because of which, a truth is only relevant to that person, and wisdom is a truth that relates to another. Personal truths are not universal, though can be shared. But, if I should be a forever compassionate and understanding individual, I should never have the answer. I should only listen and with every question, consider: “Who am I to know?”

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