Something happened yesterday that reminded me of this little snippet of my book No Impact Man which comes out in September and which you can pre-order from Amazon, BN.Com, and online from your local independent bookseller:
Now, there are a lot of stories we tell ourselves to try to make sense of what we don’t know. We tell ourselves religious stories and family stories and success stories and all sorts of different stories. Lately, I’d attached myself to stories about how every thing will be fine if we just consume less. We tell ourselves such stories because we don’t trust that we’ll do the right thing if we simply accept the groundlessness of not knowing. Another Zen master once told me that this was the entire point of practice: to become comfortable with not knowing.
But Pema’s point was that when something like the planes crashing into the World Trade Center happens, the information is just too big for our stories. Everything is just too big and too confusing. And there is no way to understand it and no story big enough to follow and you are again returned to your natural groundlessness—your not knowing.
What happens then? Well, what happened to me on 9/11 was that I didn’t want to be sitting in my apartment by myself. I wanted to be with other people, so I went out to the street and just started talking to the first person I could find. We all began trying to get downtown and none of us knew what was going on and we could see that no one else did and we were all in the same boat of not knowing what the hell this all was.
To see that is to suddenly understand what this life is for: it’s for grabbing on to the equally confused soul standing next to you and working together to help each other get through it. This is, Pema said in the video, the only thing that makes sense.