“I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.” ~Robert McCloskey.

You can’t understand some things,
You may think you can,
But you really can’t,
Especially the why questions,
Other people’s motivations,
And the purpose of things;
There is a clever way though,
In living the answers,
And doing a few simple things—
Growing some patience,
Thinking a little differently,
Relaxing your expectations,
And extending your time frame;
In the meantime, be more generous
With your love and compassion,
For those lost in a dark tunnel,
Or stuck behind a brick wall,
Who don’t have your understanding.

~The author.

We humans do seem to have a penchant for trying to understand everything. The trouble is our brains sometimes trick us into believing we actually have an accurate and complete understanding of something, when in fact we aren’t even close, except in our belief to be so. Sometimes these certainties turn out to be very big blind spots. It isn’t that we aren’t trying hard enough to see reality clearly and completely, but rather that some realities can’t be understood, at least with the type of thinking we are accustomed to using, and within our narrow timeframe.

Consider a few fundamental questions that continually perplex us, to which we often fool ourselves into believing we have the correct answers:

• What is all this for?
• Why do bad things happen to good people?
• Where will I go when I die?
• Why is hindsight better than foresight?
• Why do we have to feel so badly before we know what real happiness is all about?

Coming to a valuable realization of the possibility that some things can’t be understood is mainly a matter of how we think and our timing. And sometimes it takes great patience to see that the main problem to all this is our impatience for quick answers to perplexing problems, the habit of which just creates the misunderstanding or worse yet, the illusion of understanding (which can oddly be the very same thing).

The problems in life that have always bothered me most are the “why” questions and the ones tempting me to try to uncover the real purpose of something, or interpreting the motivations of others, especially when they affect me so negatively and harmfully.

Since most self-talk thinking is unconscious, conscious thinking probably isn’t the way to unravel real understanding of perplexing problems in life, like our short list above. To do this, we have to make a major transformation in our consciousness, which involves a much different paradigm of time. This is what I imagine all the hullabaloo about the end of the Mayan calendar in 2012 is all about—not the end of the word, but a birth of new consciousness. But I guess I will just have to wait on that. Besides it my High School 50th reunion and it’s already on my calendar.

The clue to recognizing this transition in thinking and time, is in sensing a growing tolerance for ambiguity and tentativeness. In the end, the “certainties” that we are most sure about often turn out to be partial and incomplete uncertainties over time.

Take the example of bad things seeming to unfairly pile up on us, despite the courageous and noble effort to be a good person doing good. Going through a very dark tunnel desperately looking for the light at the end of it or trying to get past a brick wall and not getting anywhere, is a dreadful experience and probably one of the most hopeless and helpless challenges we can face in life:

• Losing a loved one unexpectedly and prematurely, especially a child or mate of 50 years.
• Becoming unemployed through no fault of your own, in your only career.
• Having a child fail miserably in life, despite your good efforts to avert that from happening.
• Being burdened by overwhelming physical pain that you can’t do anything about no matter how much time or money you spend trying to do so.
• Trying to escape virtually inescapable abuse, addiction or adultery.

Understanding why this has to happen can only happen after you get through to the light at the end of the tunnel or past your brick wall—and truly understand the meaning of, “what doesn’t kill you will make you a better person.” I am still living after getting lost in more than my fair share of dark tunnels and stuck behind plenty of brick walls of helplessness and hopelessness, so I must be becoming a better person for it.

In the meantime, about the only two viable things we can do about our dark tunnels or brick walls, are:

1. Try to view the unpleasant experience as a very tough life test to inspire your very best response to gain something valuable from the pain—something once you have it, you wouldn’t take all the gold in the world in a trade.

2. Be extra generous, kind and considerate with your love, compassion and empathy for others presently lost in a dark tunnel or stuck behind a brick wall, and not understanding it. Ironically, this may be our primary connection and purpose that turns out to be the actual understanding we are insatiably searching for. Of course I will have to adapt some tentativeness to this tentative conclusion in order to practice what I preach!

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is President of Puget Sound Security in Bellevue, WA and also a business and personal success coach, sport psychologist, photographer and writer living in the mountains of North Bend. He is author of several business and self-development books, including, The Prosperity Zone, Getting More By Doing Less, You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too, The Bow-Wow Secrets, Do What Matters Most, “P” Point Management, Reality Repair & Reality Repair Rx. He can be contacted with comments or questions at 425 454-5011 or bcottringer@pssp.net