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Monk in the World Guest Post: Berenice Chan

I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to the Monk in the World guest post from the community. Read on for Berenice Chan’s refection and poem “Uncertainty.”

I wrote this poem to use as a lectio passage with my follow-on group from the 2020 Abbey of the Arts course “Way of the monk, path of the artist”. The topic “uncertainty” came from a fascinating essay I heard on BBC Radio 3 by the entrepreneur, CEO, writer and keynote speaker Dr Margaret Heffernan. She defined “uncertainty” as: the “not-knowing” if something is going to happen or not. She explained how artists need to embrace uncertainty and how this actually brings freedom. As humans we tend to crave certainty but if we knew exactly what was going to happen to us each day, life would be very dull and there would be no choices to make. With Dr. Heffernan’s permission I distilled the essay into this poem so that we could reflect on where in our contemplative practice we could embrace uncertainty to a greater extent and thus find greater freedom to answer Gods call to be our true selves.

It’s the ‘not-knowing’
How to begin?
Will a new project come along?
How to step into the unknown, agenda free?
Being attentive to your surroundings
Sensing the mood of the times
Waiting for a creative idea to form
Not straining but following where that idea leads you
Artists embrace uncertainty.
It’s the ‘not-knowing’
How to tolerate the fear?
Setting off on a voyage with no destination in mind
No certainty you will arrive
Getting lost on the way with no maps or signposts
Will I ever find my way out?
Keeping on experimenting to find a way through
“Feeling the fear and doing it anyway”
Artists embrace uncertainty.
It’s the ‘not-knowing’
How to use our freedom?
Choosing what to notice around us, the questions to ask
Having the nerve to start a project
The stamina to keep going
And the willingness to change
Imagining a better world and who we could be
Art gives us energy and makes life worth living
Artists embrace uncertainty.
It’s the ‘not-knowing’
When will your work be finished?
Not settling for second best
How many reworks are required?
Art is never really ‘finished’
It waits to be accepted, rejected, interpreted, rediscovered
The artist themself changed by the work they produce
Artists embrace uncertainty.

Written by Berenice Chan, informed by Margret Heffernan essay on art and uncertainty via BBC Radio 3 in five 15 min episodes (used with permission):
The benefit of doubt 
Where am I?
In the bottom of the well
Are we done?
Prepared minds

Berenice Chan recently retired from a career in engineering. Her spiritual journey has been influenced by Benedictine and Ignatian traditions. From discovering Abbey of the Arts in 2017 she has adopted the practice of contemplative photography, written her own rule and now enjoys improvisation through dance and playing her flute.

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