Monthly Archives: February 2021

Quietness and Confidence

In a world obsessed with data, and at a constantly accelerating pace, the idea that to know, we might need to surrender the idea of arriving there through rational means, seems just silly.

Yet this is precisely what I now believe.

The struggle to express the state of being implicit in the opening statement seems similar to me to the struggle I wrote about in Speaking the Language that cannot be Spoken. Yet the fraction of my energy expended at various times in the pursuit of certainty leads me to persist. For I believe imperfect explanations are better than none at all, at least in the case of this subject.


The search has led me to the wisdom literature and so I begin with two quotes:

“In him we live and move and have our being”

St. Paul

“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”

Jesus

The last quote has admittedly led to huge excesses and is undoubtedly deeply misunderstood because of the stubborness of the human desire to not surrender control. Yet when surrender to the only Power that will not exploit you is finally embraced, you begin to see this last quote as something entirely different, entirely positive — we begin to see it as the beginning of an abundant, thriving life not built on illuision, one not having to hide from pain in order to be characterized by joy, one that reveals the influence of a living water spoken of so long ago to the Samaritan woman at the well.

Yet, in spite of the almost irresistible impulse to identify the above quotes and associated traditions with Christianity (as a religion or whole family of religions), I believe there is very good reason to consider the (subtly different) alternative of seeing them as invitations to a transformed life from those with insights into how the universe actually works.

This will be a distinction lost on those who are certain “spirituality” is some product of natural evolution, an illusion that will pass from the collection of useful things in the future.

But to those who believe there is more than the material world, that the physical is indeed an epiphenomenon of the spiritual, perhaps this slight shift in perspective will enable them to consider the depth and power of the wisdom in those two quotes and the possibility that the ideas, the paths suggested, should be reexamined, separately from the masochistic fetishes which have attached themselves to ideas like those.


Admitting that knowing is never divorced from faith (small f) is the first step to an acknowledgment of the necessity of the “things not seen”, and a step in the direction of acceptance of certainty as something that must be transcendent, beyond the reach of the finite rational process of thinking, yet somehow intimately connected to the mind.

And yet, certainty — confidence, without qualification — is central to whole fabric of wisdom and the transformed life we are invited to:

“They that wait on the Lord shall renew their quietness and confidence …”

Isaiah

Letting go of the attempts to save ourselves from inner storms that rage when we resist surrender, we find peace and quietness. Certainty finds us, for we rest in Him and His constant stream of life and quietness no longer finds resistance in us. The same virtue that went out from him to heal when He walked among us so long ago, works its miracle in our hearts, bringing stillness and confidence.


Quietness and stillness, then music — the music emerging from a new stillness marks the dawning of a confidence, a certainty we will never mistake for anything but a gift from Him in whom we live and move and have our being.