These words were written with the hope of laying faith bare for the taking. I long for faith to be common and accessible to all, as an antidote to the despair and loneliness that can plague modern life with its modern problems. Everything I Do Not Know is so named as a way of distinguishing it from other books in the spirituality genre that claim to know so much about the notion of ‘ultimate truth’ and what one ought to believe. We can gain much from spiritual discourse, but we can gain the most, I believe, from speaking in personal experiences rather than in dogmas and absolutes. When we turn away from institutionalised knowledge and religious thought, we can embrace experiential learning, knowledge that flows from the bodily senses in all their forms. In a world that likes to take comfort in the belief that everything can be broken down into parts and understood plainly, it is most refreshing to be in the company of readers who prefer to sit, as I hope you do, in the unsolvables of human experience. What do we miss when we seek only to rationalise away life’s mysteries? It is in these less chartered waters of modern spiritual enquiry that Everything I Do Not Know treads, and perhaps in which we can find the most practical insights for contented living.
Ten years on from the initial experience of darkness that gave rise to this book, and five years on from finding the courage to write it, I have much love, still, for these words. More than the words themselves, I have love for the conversations and connections they have made possible. In Australia, somebody attempts suicide every eight minutes. This statistic reveals only a tiny fraction of the vast number in our community who are struggling to find belonging, purpose and meaning. The mental and emotional spaces of those among us who are most at-risk of contemplating taking or attempting to take their own life are characterised by the experiences of helplessness and hopelessness. From the messages I’ve received in response to this book, I am without doubt now that cultivating a spiritual life (comprising of both faith in something beyond human form, and curiosity about the higher purpose of one’s own life) is transformational work. To know a deep, abiding faith is to be equipped with an oxygen mask in a world prone to turbulence and mid-flight emergencies. It is to be hopeful and trusting in life, and to be open to receiving help; knowing there is a source from which help can be summoned. In this way, a coherent, personal faith is a fundamental remedy for the helplessness and hopelessness that many of us experience throughout our lives.
In what is perhaps the greatest cliché an author could admit to, I did honestly write this book with the hope of helping just one person. I thought that if just one person could see themselves in my words and feel a buoyant possibility about the way their life could evolve, that would be enough. The only word I know for this comes from a language more attuned to these pursuits of the soul than English. It is the Sanskrit word dharma, which encompasses both the idea of a duty and a purpose, as well as the broader concept of a state of spiritual harmony within the world. We each have dharmic responsibilities; they call to us and we know that our fulfilment of them will in some way contribute positively to our own self, as well as our time and place. It is the footprint we sense we are contracted to leave, if only we can find the path on which we’re destined to take that next step. That path feels well-worn now that I’ve stood in the message of this book for the past few years. In readying this second edition for print, I spent time clarifying some of the ideas about god and spiritual growth that felt big and elusive when I first wrote them. Some of the gentle persuasion has become more pointed, as I myself have become more assured of the utility of these teachings and more brave in sharing from within the mystery of it all. You may notice these evolutions if you’re familiar with the first edition.
More than anything, this book is a pushing back against the relentless pace and expectation of our world. It pushes back in order to create a space where the sensitive and spiritually curious can breathe and return to themselves. So, with open arms I invite you into this realm of inner discovery. May you find a resonance in my story that propels you onwards, upwards and inwards on your own journey of meaning-making. May you be unafraid to remember what your heart has never forgotten.