July 6 2023, Knowing not-knowing

Knowing is stagnation, poison. Not knowing is delusion. Knowing not-knowing is enlightenment.

I’ve been programming computers for 15 years from that knowing place 95% of the time and it results in feeling awful; out of my body, disconnected, bored. Its so different from a different kind of alive attention which comes out in different areas of my life. During zazen today I had this insight about connecting faith to programming, about finding the not knowing place and resting there. Not knowing is super uncomfortable when you need to know. But that’s place of aliveness. Faith is holding the need and staying completely open in that aliveness.

When dharma does not fill your whole body and mind, you think it is already sufficient. When dharma fills your body and mind, you understand that something is missing.


That place of lack is growth, exploration, learning, intimacy with life. Then intelligence fills it up, you know what to do, where to go. It might not feel like anything noteworthy, nothing worth remembering, it’s probably as obvious as “oh I have fingernails”. The insight is like a clear pool of refreshing cold water. The results will speak for themselves.

In this kind of knowing there’s no room for doubt or faith, you’ve merged with it completely. Faith and doubt are the ground from which it grows, but holding onto it will surely kill it. Our capacity to know is equal to our capacity to sit in real, uncomfortable, doubt. This discomfort is what “turns on” the body, connects it to the storehouse of all intelligence, and grounds Knowledge here and now.

In the case of Computer Science it might mean wandering in not knowing for hours. But it’s really critical to know what you’re not knowing, the specific thing. When you don’t even know that, what a great, rich place to be. Find it and just sit. It feels like staring at a wall. Raising great doubt for the moment and your entire world. If you don’t, all that effort will be an almost complete waste of time, exhausting, and just running around in circles.

I’ve built a career on 5% not knowing and having an engine fast enough to traverse the known pathways 95% of time. I am now super curious about going about this Computer Science in a different way that feels refreshing instead of exhausting.

What is it that hooks me and separates me from my self? Can I bring the seat of awareness to the practice of computing? There is comfort in the familiar but at what point does it turn to stagnation? Can you face the terminal and the text editor with the same emptiness that you face the blank wall? What does it feel like when this form of Computer Science is alive with the dharma?