The Unknown

“Wisdom is the art of being courageous and generous with the unknown.” – John O’Donohue

The unknown is always lurking just around the corner. It is that which exists but is of yet beyond the reach of our comprehension. It is that which has not yet manifest and is of yet a figment of the future’s imagination. It is either the formless “face of the deep” or its shape cannot yet be discerned by our mind.

To the musician, the unknown is a piece he has not yet played, a piece he does yet possess the technical ability to master, or a piece that has yet to be written. To the entrepreneur, the unknown is an existing market he knows nothing about, a market that he does not yet have the resources to penetrate, or a market that has not yet formed. The unknown lies just beyond the known, in every sphere of human activity and thought.

Realizing this, it is important to ask yourself how you tend to meet the unknown. There is more than one way to face the unknown. You can face the same set of factors with courage and generosity or with fear and distrust. You can tense up and hurl yourself at it, hide from it, or greet it with open arms.

In my experience, the unknown is best handled with courage and generosity. Approaching the unknown in this way virtually guarantees that you will maintain your poise, no matter what emerges from the darkness of the unknown. And poise, self-possession, equanimity allow you to have the presence of mind to approach matters wisely, rather than reflexively.

Wisdom is as much a matter of a pure and tranquil heart as it is a matter of a dignified and balanced mind. Fear, for instance, focuses the mind but binds the heart. Courage and generosity, however, bring perspective to the mind and embolden the heart. Wisdom cannot flow through a prejudiced mind or a clenched heart. The mind must be keen and the heart must be supple for wisdom to flow.

You need not meet the unknown reflexively, in fact, you can always face it consciously. The important thing to remember is that you have a choice.


6 thoughts on “The Unknown

  1. Isabelle

    The emphasis on choice in this and everything is what true freedom is about, whether you know what’s coming around the curve or not.


  2. I love the citing of John O’Donohue’s piece “The Question Holds the Lantern,” yesterday as it relates to facing the unknown. I have been intrigued to consider any question or concern I have about my present experience relative to what’s going to happen in the future as a lantern. A lantern that shines the light on the discovery of the steps for a greater revelation of character through myself.


  3. David R

    It is well for so many reasons that the unknown is veiled in the obscurity of the future. It is natural and can be creative to consider future possibilities, but it is not our business to try to force the future to conform to our structured views. Mary the mother of Jesus was said to have pondered the various factors she knew, along with what she didn’t know, in her heart. To me this suggests an ability to hold things sacred, to be intelligent, alert and observant without judgment or rashness, and to stay steadily present in the moment where all essences dwell.


  4. Joy

    Wonderful starting points here Gregg, particularly pertinent to me as much appears to be shifting in my world. Moving forward with courage can be invigorating because it gives one opportunity to realize that one has more strength then previously perceived. I loved Lady Leo’s point as well because if I do trust an unknown future to a known God, then I can move forward with assurance and grace. Thank you for this post.


  5. Ernest

    Some years ago I learned that for me at least the best way to face the unknown is to say to myself “that’s good”. By allowing that’s good to be my starting point into any new venture and/or adventure, the so-called unknown has an opportunity to become the known in a very positive way. The opposite way, I suppose, to face the unknown, is to utter to oneself “oh no” or words to that effect, which likely is going to set negative outcomes in motion. As you say Gregg, it is our choice.


  6. Coco

    I love this meditation! Everyone faces the unknown daily. You’d think through the millennia, at some point, we’d accept it as a norm instead of always seeing it as a foe. Years ago I read this and have always thought it not only comforting but a missing piece of information when facing the unknown. It was written by the author Corrie Ten Boom; the courageous, selfless women whose life was devoted to helping others, culminating in helping Jews during WWII to evade capture. She said, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”


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