The Don’t Know Mind


and to follow a spark on the wind with your eyes;
and to keep on not knowing
something important.

–Wislawa Szymborska

The idea of fragments and incompleteness was the topic of a blog post I wrote two weeks ago (Pieced Cloth) but it became the predominant leitmotif for life this past week. Tiny fragments found on the streets and rooftops of Back Bay, thousands of photos taken by spectators, eye witness snippets were all assembled by experts to piece together a comprehensible picture of what happened at the Marathon last Monday. Bit by bit a profile emerged of two unlikely protagonists who lived right across the river. And as the net closed in on Friday, millions of us were asked to shelter in place as this week long, “this is a bad movie I can’t stop watching” came to a close.

But a close is not a conclusion. Many of us who have been unable to talk about much else for these five days are still unsettled by a sense of something that is missing. We all live every day “not knowing something important,” but sometimes that sits more easily than it does now.

The Korean Zen master Ko Bong taught, “If you attain don’t-know, that is your original master.” In the “don’t know mind,” ignorance is the seed bed for curiosity and discovery, a willingness for that not knowing to be OK. Not that I’m good at getting there, but that quiet invitation is more appealing than more talk and more conjecture.

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  1. pianotales’s avatar

    Beautiful wise reflections.

    1. deborahbarlow’s avatar

      Thanks Andrew. It means a lot to me that you stop by.

  2. Linda Crawford’s avatar

    Thank you Deborah~Linda

  3. Rachael Eastman’s avatar

    Peace with ambiguity. Peace with feeling our way through moment to moment.

    1. deborahbarlow’s avatar

      Thanks Rachael. As is your gift, your words bring me a calm sense.

  4. Jim Coleman’s avatar

    As another slogger in this world of “not knowing,” and I find this great post calming and the image especially moving. Thanks Deb.

    1. deborahbarlow’s avatar

      Thanks Jim. The sand dollar was untouched, on a beach in New Zealand. The fragility of those shards is unexpected–they dissolved in your hand.

  5. ginger birdsey’s avatar

    i sent one of your blogs to Altoon, not knowing your were friends. I like your blog too. You and Altoon’s blog add richness of my days… It is a small world, indeed.

    1. deborahbarlow’s avatar

      Ginger, thank you so much for your kind words. Yes I am a big Altoon fan–of her blog, her strong mind and her fabulous art. Thanks for commenting here.

  6. Maureen’s avatar

    Lovely post, Deborah. So much we will never, and cannot, know.

    Rumi, as translated by Coleman Barks:

    “There is a way between voice and presence, where information flows.
    “In disciplined silence, it opens; with wandering talk, it closes.”

  7. deborahbarlow’s avatar

    Maureen, Thank you for the Rumi passage. Helpful, very helpful.

  8. Hazlo’s avatar

    Keeping on, not knowing! That’s the secret not to tell !!
    Wandering about, over here, is always a pleasure. Thanks.

  9. Liesbeth Molenaars’s avatar

    So enlightening – not knowing and know just that -
    Thank you Deborah !

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