I have not blogged for some time. I was struggling to find an explanation or a definition for Peter Senge’s personal mastery. I am pleased to announce a breakthrough—I don’t have an answer. Well, I do, but it is not an answer as there is no answer. As I drove to work this morning, I realized there was not an intellectual explanation. Instead, paradoxically it is in the mystery that the answer sits. Similar to Parker Palmer’s writing on vocation, I can only use words at a superficial level. Victor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor and psychotherapist, suggested that there is a need to believe in something bigger than one’s self to find meaning in life. This is to be engaged in something we love to the point it becomes inexplicable with mere words. This is not to do something, but to be fulfilled by being in something larger than one’s self and inexplicable.
Acknowledging mystery provides a willingness and humility to say, “I don’t know” and is refreshing. For some time, I was frustrated with this realization, but I grew to understand that to believe humans have complete answers is arrogant and delusional. To deny space for the mysterious and transitory nature of life as life lived in each ensuing moment is to deny its wholeness and richness. Life, its vocational aspects and its meaning, are revealed in the unfolding of each ensuing moment. How then can we expect to explain this regardless of any name we might attach to it? More importantly, why would we want to explain the mystery of life? Welcoming unknown, transitory aspects of life provides personal mastery.
Life is not designed to be explained or done. It is essentially being in life that counts, without filters. Personal mastery is something beyond. It is our ability to engage with the unknown and the constantly changing landscape in positive ways, to sit quietly and allow each moment to unfold. It is in the puzzles, the koans, and the mystery that we find our mastery, but we have to be aware of each new moment as it appears to fully live the life in that moment and each ensuing moment.
“The mind that is not baffled, is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings” – Wendell Berry