We don’t know what we’re going to do or what’s going to happen. We can only speculate.
It’s knowing that we don’t know that’s the trick.
And it might be that this constitutes powerlessness. But it also amounts to freedom from the need to control.
There’s this deep mystery around what we ‘choose’ to do. It’s not obvious what motivates our actions on the macro or the micro levels. We simply and truly don’t know what we’ll do next.
It might be that we’re quite consistent in our behaviour which gives us the sense that we ‘know’ what we’ll do. But it’s an illusion. It’s at best a good guess based on past observations. But if we dig down into the present moment and try to predict even next thought, we begin to witness the fallacy of individual power and control.
So living in the knowing of not-knowing is the salve for the frustrated ego-mind. It’s the sanity born of true clarity.
Because when we know that we don’t know what will be, we know that we don’t know what should be. And it’s thinking we know what should be that causes all sorts of misery. So this not-knowing needs to go deep and wide. It needs to penetrate our understanding completely.
In the world of investment the warning is always that “past results are no guarantee of future performance.” And like that, even though the world has continued on to this moment and will likely continue on into the future, we can’t know that for a fact. And we can’t know specifically what’s next for anyone or anything.
And yet we make plans and invest in the future. We defer gratification for a better tomorrow. We pay our bills and grow our pensions. We book season tickets and buy Christmas presents in September. All the while the radical uncertainty haunts us. All the while we know that we don’t know for sure what’s coming.
All of which is fine, it’s life. And I’m not suggesting we change anything.. except our certainty. And the arrogance around that false certainty. Because at some point or another most people will bump into this not-knowing.
For a long time perhaps we may go along in life more or less aligned with the predictable. Life goes as we expect it to go. And our ability to accurately anticipate events might lead us to believe we have some semblance of control over them. Until one day something changes. Something completely out of the ordinary happens and all bets are off. Our predictive power is scuppered and with it our sense of power and control.
We find ourselves flailing for answers. Untethered, vulnerable, fearful. And if we’re observant we might rightly conclude that life was always this way and that our knowing was a false one. It was a convenient comfort, a necessary response to the ocean of uncertainty that is life.
The mind wants certainty. It wants to know for sure.. something. It wants to feel safe and secure. It wants to feel it can make choices and take action. The mind believes it’s the master. It believes it calls the shots and makes things happen. But this is the delusion that leads to suffering. The suffering of frustration and fear.
The good news is that it’s based on ignorance. It’s not true. And that fact can be discovered and observed as such.
I saw a video recently of an old man of 104 and his short message was that everything is a risk. Getting married is a risk. Taking a job is a risk. Starting a business is a risk. Even walking out into the street is a risk. This is reality. So go take a risk, he said.
It’s all a risk because we don’t know what will happen or what will come of the next thing we do. So we need to accept that fact, do our best and have trust. Stand in our unknowing and face it with courage and surrender to the fact of it. That’s living in the only don’t know.
We’re on the prow of the ship facing the wind and sailing into uncharted waters.
What’s next? Who can say?