Monday, February 21, 2011

What I Don’t Know for Sure

I am riddled with ignorance.
The holes in my world are large and overarching.
I am a honeycomb of the unknown.
I don’t know how to explain leaps in evolution
nor the parting of hearts.
There is no coherent explanation for the beginning
of matter and time.  Racism is a vast question,
as is the beating of babies and how whole peoples
are abandoned and starved.
In the city of myself there are neighborhoods
that keep lock and key on the front gate and
do not permit reconnaissance or exploration.
I am lured to these gates again and again,
as a mother to the empty cradle,
as a lover to the silent phone.
I am riddled with ignorance.
I am a honeycomb of the unknown.
This is what I know for sure.
                          Rhonda Palmer

I listen to the evening news as I come home from work and hear those calm NPR reporters explaining the day’s atrocities—the recent powerful energy surging through the Middle East with such devastating human tragedy--the U.S. polarized and at odds with itself--a teetering global economy--looming environmental disaster.  One case of child abuse is enough to knock me onto my keister for days, and I’m often flat on the floor in a puddle of woe by the end of the evening, wailing about my small brain and my large lack of understanding.  

And yet, when has it been different?  In the 14th century when 75 million people died of the Black Plague?  Or during the Crusades (1095 to 1272) when European Christians raped and pillaged their way through the Muslim world?   Or think about King Leopold and the Congo, or Pol Pot.  (or rather, don’t, except to promise you won’t personally slaughter people and keep their hands as souvenirs.)  We are not a uniformly nice life form when it comes to our dealings with either ourselves or other life forms.  Yet despite the worst of us, we manage to mostly lead lives of quiet kindness.  Not that many of us actually see death and destruction up close and personal.  The vast majority of us sit around dinner tables at night with our kids and try not to get food on our clothing.  Most of us do something useful on a regular basis.  All of us, every last one of us on the planet, can admit to being wrong about something.  We know that for sure.

The TED talk I’ve enclosed by Jared Diamond is a big picture look at societies rising and falling.  Big pictures are notoriously hard to see with our noses pressed up against the glass.  I’m submitting that there is an even bigger picture, one of cosmic proportions, one we’ve gotten glimpses of from mystics and seers and saints and poets.  I’m proposing that our quest in life is to struggle to live our small lives while looking for glimmerings of that bigger picture with our noses pressed up against the glass.  We find hints in our neighbors, in our children, in poetry, in art, in pictures from the Hubble, in particle physics, in leaves and silence.  We find directions in prayer, in scripture, in tradition, in intuition, in common sense.  We find knowledge in giving up what we think we know.  

“Perchance we may divest ourselves of all that we have taken from each other and strip ourselves of such borrowed garments as we have stolen from our fellow men, that He [God] may attire us instead with the robe of His mercy and the raiment of His guidance, and admit us into the city of knowledge.” Bahá’u’lláh


  1. one hint I stumbled on behind the gates... Are there Quantum Galaxies?

    1. Rh8onda,
      What I know for sure is: I love you. and you are an amazing soul, with a wondrous heart. And a talented writer.

      Sandie: Sure! Why not?! (-Ann Blair)

  2. The sweetness of your humble compassion gives balance to the bitterness in this ol world. It is , after all, the honeycomb holes that fill and drip with golden yum.