Thursday, January 17, 2013

Drawing maps

It might be said that everything that is written, all the territory that one tries to cover, is drawing a map of some kind. This piece of territory called life arises before me, demanding that I inhabit it and explore it.

Yet it's terra incognito; and what defines it as an unknown land is not a space that it occupies — which, paradoxically, can be known, since it is geographic and physical — but time itself. The unknown is not rendered in space, but in time; and although time forever pivots at the cusp of the known, which has already passed, it is poised forever on the edge of the unknown.

Trying to puzzle out the meaning of one's life circumstances as one perpetually inhabits this place where one confronts an unknown future, if one is honest with oneself, one doesn't know. I'm forever limited; and my limitations arise just as much from what I have already known, and assume will be true from here on, as from what I don't know. I'm constrained on either side.

Yet here I am, trying to understand who I am and what I am.

Is it any wonder that I spend each morning in prayer, asking for help? Each day I awaken to my own helplessness. It's initially discouraging; I never know whether I will have the capacity to meet the day in a right way. I don't know whether I have the capacity to be a good person or not. That's always a question. I don't know how to treat other people; I don't manage my relationships well all the time. So I see all these things about myself which I document; and yet, in the end, they don't answer my question either.

This isn't a personal condition. The condition is not only common to all human beings, it is an essential and fundamental condition for all of material Being. Ever since it was created, the entire forward movement of the universe through time has stood always between the known of its former Self and the unknown of its future Self. It is said, by Ibn 'Arabi, that everything is already known in the mind of God, even the future; and this is true, so far as I can tell. Yet it's small comfort to a man who does not trust.

Epictetus maintained that the only thing I can have an effect on is my attitude; that, in general, external things are not within my power. In a sense, he argued, like Ibn 'Arabi, that everything is the Will of God alone. Only alignment with that Will can bring proper sense to my condition.

Yet something radical would have to take place for such a true alignment to exist; and I see that this penetration to the root of Being is not in me. I am not prepared enough; and a man can only receive what he is prepared for. So this work within time, this mapping of life, is a perpetual state of preparation. Yet even that insight becomes a mystery to me; because I don't know exactly what I am preparing for.

A few glimmers of light come in under the door; but what lies beyond it is unknown.

In the end, I only pray to understand.

 May your soul be filled with light.

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