The Enormous Importance of Bewilderment
By Deepak Chopra, MD
There is a creative state of confusion that is incredibly special: bewilderment. Ordinary confusion bothers us because people find it hard to live with uncertainty. Stress is increased if you don’t know what’s going to happen next. But instead of being an anxious state like ordinary confusion, bewilderment is the exact opposite: it leads to creativity, wonder and awe. If you are really bewildered, you will experience bliss.
To explain how this can be true, some other factors have to be recognized. First, certainty locks down and limits the mind. Second, false certainty brings comfort only because we tolerate living with a lie. Third, no one genuinely knows what they claim to know. These might sound like the ideas of a contrarian, but all three statements are literally true. If you don’t realize that you have locked down your mind, consider the following:
· There is no logical explanation for existence. Nobody can say why we are here.
· Evolution cannot explain why humans learned to use language.
· Time and space exploded on the scene with the Big Bang, so they had to come from somewhere. Yet “somewhere” is a concept that depends on a location in time and space. So the reality that we take for granted is based on a timeless, spaceless state that is inconceivable.
· We are dependent on thinking, but no one knows where a thought comes from, or why any thought happens to pop into the mind.
· There is not the slightest explanation for how the atoms and molecules in the brain, which are completely ordinary “stuff,” became conscious and intelligent. It seems ridiculous to say that basic chemicals composing in the brain, such as salt, sugar, and water, are “smart” because of where they are.
These huge gaps in our knowledge get papered over every day, which brings us to the second statement, that false certainty exists in order to make us comfortable. Socrates, who was famous for wisdom, said that the only thing he knew was that he knew nothing. Few of us would be remotely comfortable living with that truth.
Once you have decided to be comfortable with false certainty, you agree to live a collective lie, or shared illusion. This illusion consists of the virtual reality created by perception. The entire world consists of objects we see, feel, touch, taste, and smell. Other creatures like bats who use sonar and snakes that sense molecules in the air with their tongues, create their own virtual reality. But humans have the advantage of naming our perceptions, telling stories based on them, and thinking about how to upgrade virtual reality.
At the present moment science exists as the main force to upgrade virtual reality; centuries ago religion performed the same role. The drawback to religion is that it is subject to myth and superstition, not to mention that faith is required to believe in metaphysical entities. Science got rid of the immeasurable aspects of reality and much of the superstition, but it has run afoul of its own drawbacks. These are serious enough that there is continued discussion about science being in a crisis.
The crisis came about because false certainties are beginning to unravel. This unraveling centers around science’s dependency on the material world as the ultimate reality. For everyday living the material world seems secure, but there are some hidden flaws that can no longer be ignored.
· The so-called laws of nature have no logical explanation. No one really knows if they are laws at all. They may be subject to change.
· The quantum world doesn’t behave remotely like everyday life, nor does dark matter and energy. After more than a century, no one has been able to reconcile quantum reality with everyday reality, so in essence we have no idea where the universe came from or what it is made of.
· Empirical evidence breaks down at the frontier of time, space, matter, and energy. Theories based on superstrings and the multiverse do not — and cannot — be based on any empirical evidence. They are mathematical creations detached from material reality.
What all of this scientific confusion amounts to is a fork in the road. One way leads to more of the same false certainty that we are currently living with. The other way leads to a frank admission that existence is incomprehensible in objective, measurable standards. Strangely, that recognition is the road that leads to a better future for everyone.
Once you admit that existence is incomprehensible, you are bewildered, yet your bewilderment is based on reality, not false certainty. Reality, stripped of mental lockdown, is awe-inspiring. Einstein said that without a sense of wonder, no great scientific discovery is possible. The same is true of other things that we find wonderful without offering a local explanation for them, such as beauty, love, creativity, natural wonders, joy, spiritual experiences, and the pure bliss f being alive, here and now.
Bewilderment opens the way to this shared reality in place of the virtual reality we have cobbled together collectively. As the poet Rumi advised, “Exchange your cleverness for bewilderment.” If we cling to our current state of virtual reality, we are imperiled by war, a despoiled planet, nationalism, racial prejudice, and worst of all, ignorance over who we really are. Bewilderment offers a creative way forward, and right now it is the only open door that leads us out of our mind-made nightmares.
DEEPAK CHOPRA™ MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation, a non-profit entity for research on well-being and humanitarianism, and Chopra Global, a whole health company at the intersection of science and spirituality, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation. Chopra is a Clinical Professor of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of California, San Diego and serves as a senior scientist with Gallup Organization. He is the author of over 90 books translated into over forty-three languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His 90th book and national bestseller, Metahuman: Unleashing Your Infinite Potential (Harmony Books), unlocks the secrets to moving beyond our present limitations to access a field of infinite possibilities. For the last thirty years, Chopra has been at the forefront of the meditation revolution and his latest book, Abundance: The Inner Path to Wealth (Harmony Books) offers the keys to a life of success, fulfilment, wholeness and plenty. TIME magazine has described Dr. Chopra as “one of the top 100 heroes and icons of the century.” www.deepakchopra.com