The transition into the New Year usually has a certain ceremonious quality to it. We look back on the year behind us and reflect on whatever insights we’ve gained along the way. We usher in the year ahead with fresh resolve and robust optimism. At the stroke of midnight, we raise our glasses, shoot off fireworks and celebrate what has passed and what is yet to come. For me, however, there will be no fanfare this year. Instead, I am slipping quietly into the New Year, much like someone would step gingerly over a crack in the sidewalk.
As I bid adieu to 2011, I am left with a simple realization:
I don’t know anything, really.
If life is a science lab, then my experiments of the past year have only led to more questions. Old theories, “proven” methods and calculated risks have not provided meaningful insight into survival, humanity, love or life. I look at our recession- ravaged country and can only scratch my head. The voices of a thousand “experts” simply drown each other out and merge into one cacophonous drone. Language becomes increasingly difficult to decipher. I sometimes wonder if I was trained to live in a world that no longer exists. I know that I am not alone in this bewildered sentiment.
I don’t know anything.
Seriously, I don’t have a fucking clue. At almost 50 years old, I am stripped down and naked. I don’t know how to think about the world anymore. This is either epic liberation or existential resignation. I don’t know yet. From a Buddhist perspective, this is an ideal place to be. Beginner’s mind.
For me personally, 2012 will be a big year. I’m standing at a significant crossroads at present. Over the course of the next few months, forces that are, for the most part, beyond my control will ultimately determine the next curve in the trajectory of my life. (Who am I kidding? It’s all beyond our control.) No matter how things play out, giant changes are ahead for me. I am at the mercy of ambiguity. But we all are, every day. The situation isn’t important. What’s important is the present moment and whatever grace I can find therein.
So, I approach the New Year with no preconceived notions and no expectations. I am a beginner. I know nothing. In the absence of knowing, the default is usually fear. But I am far beyond fear. So, I choose curiosity instead. I choose to approach whatever lies ahead with a sense of tender inquiry. No judgment. No fear. No storyline. Just a curious freefall into life itself.
I am new. Teach me.
“The very place where safety lies for us is the place that seems most dangerous; that is having the courage to let people into what life has really done to us.”