Naperville, July 2005

Life has ways of surprising you when you least expect it. One of those moments occurred for me in a Fairfield Inn in Naperville, Illinois. We were visiting Joan’s relatives in Chicago and I hung back at the hotel while our kids napped.

I had purchased a copy of Parabola at a nearby Barnes & Noble. This passage from T.S. Eliot (cribbed, actually, from St. John of the Cross) jumped out at me:

In order to arrive at what you do not know
You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess
You must go by the way of dispossession.


This was both startling and counterintuitive. Up until that point, life seemed additive—knowledge and experiences building on a foundation of prior knowledge and experiences, stretching back years into childhood. Eliot was suggesting otherwise and I knew in that instant it was true. ✸

Postscript [08/09/2021]. Here’s a related passage from Anthony de Mello: “They didn’t teach me how to live at school. They taught me everything else. As one man said, ‘I got a pretty good education. It took me years to get over it.’ That’s what spirituality is all about, you know: unlearning. Unlearning all the rubbish they taught you.”