“Know Thyself,” we were told in Delphi. “To know God, you have to know your own self.” The Prophet told us.
The earth is populated with preachers and mystics who peddle knowledge of God. (And yes, blogs which purport to include wisdom about faith and God.)
We want to know.
All we wanted to know but were afraid to ask.
All we really needed to learn we learned in kindergarten… or college… or life.
We want to know who loves us.
We want to know who “likes” us on social media.
We want to know God.
We want to know the habits of highly successful people.
We want to know how to get people to fall in love with us.
Is there room in our seeking for not-knowing? Is there space in our quest for un-knowing? Unlearning? For dropping how we have come to cram a magnificent, wondrous world of seen and unseen realities into boxes of small, frail, and fragile understanding?
Are our hearts big enough to hold a mystery? Can we love a secret, untold and unspecified? Can we sit with an open secret, so vast, so beautiful, so subtle that there is no knowing it? No containing it? No mastering it? Only accepting it?
What if we knew something wonderful was going to happen, but not when?
What if you knew that you would be blessed, but not through whom? Or how?
What if a heart would be opened for you, but you knew not whom?
Can we stand at the edge of an ocean without a shore?
All of which brings me to the mystery, the open secret, hidden in the last ten nights of Ramadan.
The last ten nights of Ramadan are upon us.
The fasting, the long summertime days of fasting in the Northern hemisphere. The long night prayers. Getting up at four in the morning for breakfast. Cooking meals for a community without tasting them. Most of all, the inner work: fasting not just from food and water during the daytime, but fasting from greed, anger, lust, and resentment.
The last ten nights of Ramadan are about this not-knowing.
It is sitting with a mystery.
It is opening one’s heart to a secret.
Hidden in the last ten nights of Ramadan is a night called Night of Power (Laylat al-qadr). This is a night that Muslims cherish, holding it to be “better than a thousand months.” This is a night that the angels descend down — and the very spirit of God. We’re told there is peace, until the rise of dawn.
The Night of Power may be the 21st night of Ramadan. Or the 23rd. Or maybe, the 25th. Then again, possibly the 27th. It’s one of the last ten odd nights of Ramadan.
Accept the Mystery. The Un-knowing.
Embrace the not knowing.
Is tonight the night that the angels descend? Will there be peace tonight? How we crave peace in the heart and peace in the world? Will there be peace tonight?
Is it the Night of Power that makes it peaceful? Or is it the Night of Power anytime when we bring peace to our own hearts, peace to our little human village?
Might it be tonight.
The great Rumi reflects on this not knowing, on this hiddenness:
just like the Night of Power,
is hidden amidst the other nights
So that the soul
will go on seeking every night.
Oh young one,
not every night is the Night of Power
not every night
is bereft of the Night of Power—Masnavi, 2,:2935
Here is the grace of God.
hidden in plain sight.
We find God.
whenever we seek.
God says through Muhammad:
It is the seeking
that makes every night
Night of Power.
We stand knee deep in the ocean
lips on the waves
Dying of thirst.
I am reminded of the wisdom of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel:
“It takes three things to create a sense of significant being:
and a moment.
And the three are always present.”
The night of Power is about this coming together:
we seek holiness here, there,
tonight, the next night.
The not-knowing, the mystery gradually awakens us to the realization that God, soul, and this “moment,” this “night” are always present.
May it be blessed for you,
May it be blessed for us.
May the mystery enfold you.
May the angels descend down upon you.
May there be peace, tonight.