Friday, 28 September 2012

reframing faith

Self-knowledge is not fully possible for human beings. We do not reside in a body, a mind or a world where it is achievable or from the point of being interesting, even desirable. Half of what lies in the heart and mind is potentiality, resides in the darkness of the unspoken and unarticulated and has not yet come into being: this hidden unspoken half will supplant and subvert any present understandings we have about ourselves. Human beings are a frontier between what is known and what is not known. The act of turning any part of the unknown into the known is simply an invitation for an equal measure of the unknown to flow in and reestablish that frontier: to reassert the far horizon of an individual life; to make us what we are – that is - a moving edge between what we know about ourselves and what we are about to become. What we are actually about to become, or are afraid of becoming, always trumps and rules over what we think we are already. 

The hope that a human being can achieve complete honesty and self-knowledge with regard to themselves is a fiction and a chimera, the jargon and goals of a corporate educational system brought to bear on the depths of an identity where the writ of organizing language does not run. Self-knowledge includes the understanding that the self we know is about to disappear. What we can understand is the way we occupy this frontier between the known and the unknown, the way we hold the conversation of life, the figure we cut, but a detailed audit of the self is not possible and diminishes us in the attempt to establish it; we are made on a grander scale, half afraid of ourselves, half in love with immensities beyond any name we can give…

David Whyte

from Readers' Circle Essay, "Forgiveness", 2011

I love the idea here that as soon as you feel you know something about yourself, the next unknown is already moving in to take the place of the one you think you've removed.  Perhaps, then, this means that it's the unknown which is always in some way the point (as opposed to 'self-knowledge' being some kind of goal).

This unknown must surely be the source of creativity. Or at least the source of what I call creativity, which is not  something predictable or contained. If your work does not surprise you, it seems to me, then perhaps what you're looking at is simply the perfection of a technique or a skill.

Discipline of Freedom work seems to me to be about creating practices and opportunities which force you into that unknown. This work makes you step out onto a secret plateau within yourself; it helps you to step, and to wait, and to breathe, while you're waiting to see what happens. Without this kind of practice, you can live forever without knowing how it feels to be suddenly over your edge; falling through space, and, to your utter amazement, finding yourself in waiting hands that you had no idea, at all, were there.

The word 'faith' has always been a red rag to me. It inflames some sense of outrage against what I personally  believe to be the massive delusion of those forms of religious dogma which suggest that you are not allowed to  doubt the existence of an external, punishment-dealing creator; and which tell you that you must simply 'have faith' that he (it is almost always a he) is up there, separate from you, and judging you, whether or not this idea  makes any sense to you (apologies to those of you whose belief I have just caricatured). Faith in this sense has always made me want to scream. 

But I see now that there's a different interpretation of faith. When I walk out alone into the space of an Authentic Artist or Discipline of Freedom workshop floor, I'm putting my trust into something that's outside of me; in a group of people and a process that I cannot in any way predict, though I always have the option of control. And somehow, in this process, I'm moved into that unknown. Without fear, and without danger. My creative work is always permanently affected by whatever happens.


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