Letters to the kids, “No One Knows”

I’ve been meaning to sit down and begin writing this for some time. Growing up, my dad went to great lengths to inculcate me with his spiritual views. At the time, I didn’t look at it that way, but now looking back it’s what it was. Instead of bibles, he used LSD. Instead of hymns, he used Pink Floyd. It was still proselytization though. Mom did the same thing, continues to do the same thing. I think it’s the nature of people to need to share their view of the universe, to get others on board so they don’t feel so alone. To some degree maybe that’s what this is as well. If I was being totally honest, I’d keep my mouth shut and leave you to figure it out for yourselves. Sometimes I think that would be the best way. Given all the problems religion causes, the blind spots it engenders, I think anyone giving “spiritual” guidance would best sit on their hands.

That said, there are talks you want to have with your kids. Questions you want to be able to give them some answer to. If we can’t learn anything to pass on, what’s the point after all? So first, I want to share the most central conclusion I’ve come to, watching out through these eyes for the last 45 years, “No One Knows.”

I don’t care how many books they’re written or read. I don’t care how many hours they’ve spent in contemplation. I don’t care how many workshops they’ve attended, mantras they chanted, prayers they’ve prayed, spells they cast or theories they’ve proved. Never submit your personal spiritual authority to any of them. They are just like you, just another talking monkey trying to make sense of the universe. Their view is no better and no worse than anything you come up with. There is no right answer, and even that statement is dubious.

People say that faith has value. Faith sustains. Maybe it does, but it also blinds. The ability to question, the facility to doubt, to refuse to accept the pat answer. That’s what I’ve found useful and valuable. Doubting folks don’t kill folks for their beliefs. They don’t start fights on principles. Doubting folks question everything, especially themselves. Doubt is my mantra.

Now, stating that no one knows is not the same thing as saying it’s all just garbage. I’m a pragmatist at my core. If it works, you use that shit. You try things, judge their outcomes and act accordingly. If faith engenders charity, I’m all for it. If therapy makes your life easier, more power to you. If meditation gives you a sense of connection and well-being, “no one knows” isn’t about pissing on your spiritual experience. No one knows is about keeping a check and balance on spiritual ambition and spiritual exploitation. There’s no end of folks who will sell you an answer. They make them tailored to fit like a suit. They will tell you what you want or need to hear, and they’ll happily take your tithe. Some will even do good works with it. In the end, if that ends up working for you, I’ve nothing to say against, because you’ll have chosen it.

I guess the main point I just want you to carry away from reading this is that if “no one knows” all possibilities are open to you. Doubt is freedom. If you don’t know what is, then you don’t know what can’t be either. If you know all the guideposts were just set up by other travelers, who were just as lost as you, it takes the pressure off. From the day we woke up on this world and looked around in wonder, we’ve been trying to figure it all out. We’ve been successful to one degree or another, in limited domains. Enough to make a technological society that lets me scribble these thoughts down. We shouldn’t let it go to our heads though. On nights like this one, I sit and I wonder if an old aborigine is going to wake up and blink me and my world out of existence with the sleep from his eyes, before going off to find himself breakfast. I don’t know that he won’t, which to my way of thinking is wonderful.