Wendel Berry: Our real work

It may be that when we no longer know what to do

we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go

we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings

– Wendell Berry, Our real work

This is true in a conventional sense. When we no longer know what to do, we are turned back on ourselves and need to find a different approach, one that’s outside of what’s familiar to us. We enter unknown territory, and that’s where we learn, discover, and are transformed.

It’s also true in a more universal sense. We never really know what to do. If we are honest with ourselves, we are always baffled. We live in and as the unknown, whether we notice or not. When we notice this, and to the extent we take it in, we open up for the same kind of exploration of an unknown terrain, and the same possibility for us to be transformed.

In practice, we obviously still know what we know and have the experiences and skills we have. We also have the skills and experiences of others, and we have our own inner guidance. We have a lot to draw on, and we’ll make use of it in an ordinary way.

And yet, we also know that we ultimately don’t know. We are always entering the unknown and we live from and as the unknown. And that opens us up for a more genuine receptivity and curiosity, a deeper sense of adventure and discovery, and for allowing ourselves – as this human self and the field it all happens within and as – to be tranformed.

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