thoughtful post about letting a word choose you, when suddenly the word "unknowing" seized me by the shoulders, compelling me to look it right in the face. "You've gotta be kidding, God," was my inward response.
I have to admit, unknowing sounds a little more ominous than peace, joy, or my personal favorite, love. It requires radical trust from go. Actually, it demands crazy trust long before you pack a bag and roll out with it. Now that think about it, unknowing whispers like a kind soul mama, "Baby, you don't need nothin' for this journey." But you know me, Mair needs a little hand holding, or at least a reliable guide for this trip that promises to be a trip. My companion will be Paraclete Press' THE CLOUD OF UNKNOWING. I love, love, love their contemporary English translations, this one edited by Bernard Bangley.
I have read only a short compilation of passages from the Cloud, and that was years ago. I don't remember much, so essentially I'll be starting over. A little research today, via Wiki, revealed this:
"The book counsels a young student to seek God, not through knowledge and intellection, but through intense contemplation, motivated by love, and stripped of all thought. This is brought about by putting all thoughts, except the love of God, under a "cloud of forgetting", and thereby piercing God's cloud of unknowing with a "dart of longing love" from the heart. This form of contemplation is not directed by the intellect, but involves spiritual union with God through the heart."
Friends, if the idea of a cloud of unknowing sounds a little unsettling, that cloud of forgetting sounds pretty incredible. Last night, before I toasted in the new year, I said goodbye to 2010. It was one hell of a year that felt marked by more failure and fear than triumphant victories--though there were a few (Xavier University LA's Institute for Black Catholic Studies!). I'm not sad to see such a hard year go. I've lost my beloved. If I didn't see the failure of my marriage coming, the Lord did, and this call to unknowing sounds to me like an invitation to a rendezvous.
Tonight, as I consider contemplative prayer, which I assume is the heart of THE CLOUD OF UNKNOWING, I'm thinking not so much of stripping all thoughts away, but rather offering them to my good Lover as if they were a gift. I imagine myself lying supine, like the Shulamite woman in the Song of Songs, dark and lovely, with a lover enraptured enough to lie all night between my breast. And I will embrace my Jesus, my house--not just my body, but my mental faculties--all stilled, as St. John of the Cross wrote so beautifully about in his luminous poem, The Dark Night. This, to me, is contemplative prayer.
The year of Unknowing? Bring it on!