O God, who am I?
--A prayer attributed to St. Francis
Living these questions without coming to conclusions. This is the antidote to idolatry and self deception.
Because there is no comprehending God -- that is, containing, grasping, measuring, describing -- all conclusions about God are misleading. (Even, for example, if we can agree that "God is love," the conclusions we come to about that truth are not THE truth. God's love is an eternally unfolding, incomprehensible mystery. Our "job" is to contemplate it, to make ourselves vulnerable to its transformative presence, not to define it.)
We also, as beings created in the image of God and "hidden in Christ," are virtually fathomless. At the very least, if we're honest, we are mysteries to ourselves and each other.
The conclusions that we come to about ourselves and each other are the root of injustice, isolation, fear, violence, etc. etc.
Is it possible to live without coming to conclusions? I believe so. And not only possible, but necessary and liberating. It is also the way of humility and childlike wonder which is the doorway to the kingdom of heaven.
Conclusions can be rejected. They can be put in their place, which is, at best, partial understandings. When seen in this way they become what they really are, building blocks. Or maybe conclusions are more accurately described as merely raw material: manure, straw, and water that make up the adobe bricks that form the mission church that are meant to hint at God's glory. They endure the desert sun for a couple hundred years before crumbling back into the soil.
Practically speaking, the rejection of conclusions is simply good science. Recognizing that when I am attached to a particular result, I will get that result, or something like it that supports an unexamined preference.
We will always have blind spots and limited vision. But the regular practice of the prayer "who are you and who am I?" helps keep the heart and mind from grasping and clinging to the comforts of partial conclusions, which by their very incompleteness, are false and misleading.
I am not suggesting that we are incapable of knowledge of God or of our ourselves. Nor am I suggesting that everyone needs to become a rigorous philosopher, ruthlessly examining every thought. Probably what I mean to do here is explore inklings of a way of being in the world.
It's been said that "unanswered questions are far less dangerous than unquestioned answers." It feels like we as a global society are living the harmful results of unquestioned answers, and the more anxiety we feel the more tempted we become to jump to conclusions that promise solutions.
But we are the problem that we face. At the same time, we are not problems to be solved, we, like God whose image we bear, are mysteries to be contemplated. And this is a slow, humble, self emptying process. Openness to mystery, not mastery through power and knowledge.
There is a kind of knowing that comes from contemplation, but it is so deeply integrated and contextualized that it can't be separated from the individual. The individual can be pictured as a single facet on the face of the luminous divine diamond, containing a part of a Whole that is the truth/beauty that cannot be expressed with words.
It's okay not to know, to be mystified and confused. The danger is in letting the discomfort of human limitation drive you to conclusions about God rather than into the presence of God.