Cultivating A Holy Curiosity


Every day I stand and watch this intersection of four roads that is such a symbolic intersection of all of life. I look out over my current little corner of the world through a smudged floor-to-ceiling window. From the time I pull back the paisley curtain, blinking at the light pouring in my room, to the time I watch the moon rise over the concrete skyline, I find my way back here several times just to notice.

It’s a place where beauty and chaos meet; they mingle like the rickshaws and cars that push each other around the crossroads in their back and forth dance. The lush coconut palms stand in contrast to the fading, cracked sidewalks. The rising sun glints off windows of the high-rise across the street and the tin roof of the slums beneath it. In the morning the nuns shuffle past to the counseling center they run down the street, their white habits and white shoes standing out against the black street. In the evening crowds of men return from the mosque after the last Call to Prayer has sounded for the night. I love the way this place isn’t afraid of paradox.

In the Western world we tend to see life in dichotomies. We live in a world of either/or. Right or wrong. Blessings or curses. Suffering or healing. Of God or of the world.
For most of my early life, I didn’t know that life existed in the grey areas. No one told me there was room for a world of both/and. I couldn’t believe we could carry both faith and doubt, knowing and unknowing.

Maybe this is why I love South Asia so much. It’s like the very land that cradles the ancient and the modern side-by-side gives the people permission to live with dualities. Here the colors are brighter, the noises louder, and the smells stronger. But the dark sides aren’t hidden away either.

Through this window I’ve borne witness to wedding processions in all their pomp. The sound of the band arrived first, the horns and drums reverberating off the buildings. The kids and I ran to the window to catch the groom arriving on horseback, covered in marigolds. Through the smoky glass I’ve seen joyful celebration, flags waving and chants raised high praising the national cricket team’s victory. From the safety of this room, I shook as I watched police launch tear gas at student protestors and heard the echoing sound of rubber bullets, the screams of a different kind of processional run past.

Here wonder and horror, joy and lament are allowed to coexist. Like the South Asian bride that weeps as she departs her family home and crosses the threshold into her new life, I can learn to mourn and to celebrate life at the same time. Somehow the diversity of life on full display gives me hope. We can carry such lament and still have room for hope. We don’t have to be defined by our divisions. We can hold onto our beliefs without having to set down empathy, compassion, and acceptance.

If the world can be such a grand convergence of seeming opposites, why are we so surprised that God can be both far more than we can comprehend and ever more intimately present with us? Can we believe that Jesus is a profound mystery while also knowable?

God’s gloriously diverse creation is so full of complexities that take a lifetime to understand, yet for so long I tried to know the answer to every question about the Creator with certainty. Albert Einstein said, “One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery day. Never lose a holy curiosity.”

I hold these thoughts close as I return to my window once more to face the rising moon, believing that “spirituality is often more about unlearning than learning” as Richard Rohr has said. Here I set down my certainties, the things I thought I had to carry. My now open, empty hands are free to embrace all of humanity and a little more of the mysteries of God every day.