The Baffled Mind

“It may be that when we no longer know what to do,
we have come to our real work
and when we no longer know which way to go,
we have begun our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.” Wendell Berry

“The mind that is not baffled is not employed.” Talk about encouraging words for those of us who always ask “why,” who are motivated to look deeper, who are enriched by the journey of finding out what to do and which way to go! I have had an adventurous mind all of my life. I am usually not challenged by questions or new possibilities. This trait has gotten me in trouble since the days when I was learning to talk, read, and write.

I am in good company. Albert Einstein frustrated his parents and seemingly every one of his teachers because he refused to let go of his questions. At points in his life, professors ordered him out of their classrooms because he “disrupted” the orderly lectures with his disorderly questions. Once Albert understood something (which happened easily, it seems), he saw new possibilities that baffled him. He could not understand why his professors were not interested in the questions he was raising, but rather were perfectly willing to teach the same information they had taught for years.  Evidently they were not comfortable with “baffled minds.” And evidently his baffled mind was on the track to greatness.

To me a baffled mind is one that does not attempt to control information; instead, it rejoices in the questions. It is not committed to supporting the status quo; it is committed to investigating truth. It is not fearful of the unknown; it is delighted by the quest for what lies beyond. As Berry notes, it is when we no longer know how to explain or how to proceed that our real journey begins.

Having the instinct to look deeper or wider or longer into the unfathomable is the creative urge that reveals the touch of the Creator. It is what enables us to swim through “the impeded stream.” Living with a baffled mind might just be the definition of faith – something we desperately need in 2017

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