Open to the Infinite

Posted on 9 October 2006


(An invited contribution to The Vision Project)

Underneath our everyday problems and their usual solutions are the profound questions of life. These questions call us to look deeper into the nature of ourselves and reality. This is not a call to turn away from the normal challenges we face, but rather to see them in a larger context so we can respond to them more effectively. Because the limits of our vision limit the effectiveness of our action, a deeper vision is vitally important and essential to any effective action. And it is even more essential if we are to resolve the enduring existential questions of life.

The scope of our vision is determined by our view of the world. To expand our worldview requires an intention to see its limits and hidden assumptions and then to look beyond them. Once we have this intention, our lives become full of opportunities to grow. Our relationships with each other—especially the difficult ones—help us become aware of our own perspectives. Exposure to different cultures and new experiences help broaden our understanding and appreciation. Cultivation of more subtle capacities of observation and attention unveil aspects of our present experience that were previously ignored. Like the scientist, our discoveries come not from confirmation of what we already know, but from challenging our current understanding with new anomalies and paradoxes. The unknown and inexplicable are our guides, calling us to open our minds to new possibilities and perspectives, new patterns and paradigms.

This openness is a capacity to embrace opposites, a willingness to experience all aspects of life, and to give balanced and unprejudiced consideration to alternatives. It is a capacity to act with freedom from personal attachments and aversions. Radical openness is profound and powerful enough to embrace not only our family, friends and nature, but also our enemies, our fears and our suffering. It is a willingness to face the uncomfortable, the threatening, and the painful; it is a love that has the courage to open completely without reservation or resistance to the greatest of horrors and mysteries. A profoundly open mind is not merely interested in what it would like to know; it wants to know the truth, no matter how pleasant or unpleasant. It is open to all viewpoints and perspectives, and not just those that are comfortable. It embraces paradox and contradiction, takes joy in the unexplained and unknown. So let us listen and be attentive to ourselves, each other, and the world. Let us be willing to honestly examine ourselves, and confess to the limitations of our current capacity to see. This willingness naturally leads to an expansion of vision. And the more expanded our vision becomes, the more wise, compassionate, and effective our response will be to the challenges we face.

Any viewpoint or perspective, however, is a finite framework for understanding. Although an expansive worldview is better than a narrow one, we must not merely be open to more expanded viewpoints and perspectives. We must be open to the infinite. An openness to the infinite requires a willingness to see and surrender every limitation of our vision. This goes far beyond merely exchanging one worldview for a more comprehensive one. It demands we examine and ultimately let go of every preconception and presupposition about ourselves and the world. We can imagine what we might like to become, how we might like things to be. But our greatest potential is not imaginable, and our true destiny is inconceivable. Our greatest vision is beyond what we can currently envision. Let us therefore aspire to what is beyond our imagination and thought, and let go of all limits. Let us open our vision to the infinite.