While introducing a 400-year-old religious composition entitled Vespers, Julie Nesrallah, host of Tempo on CBC Radio 2, commmented that the music evoked in the listener both "awe and bewilderment". Of course, she was correct in her critical appreciation. It did indeed make one experience both "awe and bewilderment".
Reflecting on the critical phrase, following the experience, one is prompted to parse the rarity of our openness to, acceptance of and search for "bewilderment" in our faith pilgrimage, and more importantly in our search for our life path. We simply reject our acknowledgement of our own "unknowing" and of our bewilderment, until, having exhausted all of the available evidence for any circumstance, we are still unknowing of either what is going on or why.
And the limits to our unknowing and our bewilderment are so broad and wide that we need to recover our ownership if we are to fully integrate into our specific and our collective reality.
After centuries of exploring the human anatomy and physiology, we are still in the dark about many of the pains and symptoms presented by patients in their doctors' offices, and in the emergency rooms of our hospitals. We have a plethora of tests, in our determined initiative to "rule out" potential diagnoses. Like crime scene detectives, our medical professionals are probing the evidence through the most advanced techniques and technologies, and we are still taking many probes and extensive time periods to discern the unique situation with each patient.
We are probing the atmospheres of various planets, in our unwavering pursuit of "life out there" without really knowing where that pursuit will lead. We are exploring our own inner truths, pulling insights and feelings and perceptions out from behind blocked and twisted memories, perceptions, and encounters, previously inaccessible and therefore unavailable previously. Socrates famous phrase, "The unexamined life is not worth living" accurately paints a picture of a human being in constant, persistent and never-ending nuggets of character, interest, capacity, aptitude and even destiny, without an absolute unchangeable immutable answer. In fact, the process itself, documents the disclosing and evolving answers.
And in that process, we too often avoid paying appropriate attention to our own bewilderment, while never failing to be impaled in the apparent bewilderment of our colleagues at our actions, attitudes, perceptions and beliefs. We are also embedded in our own ceaseless attempts to provide "structure" and definition and any of several depictions of what we are wont to call "reality" in order to avoid having to face the truth of bewilderment, of not really knowing the full truth and the full reality.
Having been privileged to attend training offered by Robert Fritz, known for his Technologies for Creating (c), I first came face to face with the concept that it was acceptable and necessary to admit "not knowing" as part of any situation. Subsequently, I learned from his colleagues who worked under the working title "The Learning Organization," that, upon encountering an issue in any organization, leaders are prompted to ask the question "why?" at least five times, in order to fully uncover the dynamics of the file.
In most human situations, most people are quite willing and even eager to look for and to accept only one explanation of any situation, especially in situations in which they find discomfort. It is much easier and therefore more conventional and also more acceptable to "blame" another, to scapegoat the problem, often an individual who merely speaks truth to power rather than to pursue our unknowing of some of the reasons the situation has developed as it has.
We are so driven by our intense and unforgiving pretense and determination and even belief that we must dominate every situation, that we must bring order out of chaos, that we must paint pictures of success and of future happiness and enhanced success, in whatever field of human endeavour, that we
build our need for "dominance" into each and every situation we find. We build our education system around the determination to solve problems, including the students' capacity to deploy the latest technology in the process, as well as the evidence of previous periods of history to solve problems, while never failing to find ourselves repeating the same scenarios that resulted in those same problems.
We remain "in awe" of natural phenomena like the 'northern lights' or the birth of a baby, or the forgiveness of a wrong, the reconciliation of a long-held dispute, without acknowledging our bewilderment over such questions as the synergy of their occurrence, and certainly the unpredictability of their potential. We engage in statistical probabilities, in our honourable and inveterate pursuit of "knowing" the future, without acknowledging the fallibility of our methods, or our results.
We have elevated "experts" and "specialists" to very high status in our hierarchy of values of credibility in all fields of human endeavour, and when those with that status don't know, we are left wanting.
In our pursuit of "power" both the soft and hard varieties, we elevate models of "knowing" and of "knowing how to do" to stardom, creating an endless belt of generational clones emulating their heroes, and not merely on the athletic fields and ice rinks, or the scientific labs and the court rooms, and even in the literary awards. Underneath the public drama, however, are the stories of bewilderment, suspense, and unknowing that comprise the earth in which we plant the seeds of our lives.
And, while it may at first appear that "bewilderment" is an impairment to our individual and our collective lives, it is rather a gift, if only we can and will openly and courageously celebrate it appropriately. Just as nature abhors a vacuum, so too it appears that human beings abhor bewilderment to our own self-sabotage.
Certainly, in our spiritual lives, bewilderment is the foundation of not every fully "knowing" about concepts like deity, afterlife, the relationship between our lives and a deity, the meaning and interpretation of holy texts, without ever compromising our attempts to discern our own answers to such questions. Bewilderment is, at its core, humbling and orienting our uncertain lives to an always-changing and unpredictable reality. It places us in harmony with nature, the forces we cannot "control" as mounting evidence continues to demonstrate.
On a pragmatic level, bewilderment also provides many doors behind many questions waiting our hands to unlock and to open to our own pilgrimage, and to contribute to the collective insight, not as dominators but more as participants in the inexorable complexities of all life in all times.
Ambiguity, uncertainty, suspense, surprise, reflection, collaboration, shared anxieties, shared fears and shared grounding, all of them sisters and brothers of bewilderment, serve us far better than we are likely to acknowledge. And the more we can and will include them in our relationships and in our education and spiritual journeys, the more those pathways will reflect our full and mature acceptance of our shared occupying a planet threatened by their denial and rejection.