Archive for November 2nd, 2021

Accepting Uncertainty

GC Myers--Facing Mystery 2021

Facing Mystery– Now at the Principle Gallery

I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of uncertainty about different things, but I am not absolutely sure of anything and there are many things I don’t know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we’re here. I don’t have to know an answer. I don’t feel frightened not knowing things, by being lost in a mysterious universe without any purpose, which is the way it really is as far as I can tell.

― Richard P. Feynman

It’s an uneasy alliance when you live with uncertainty. The whole world sometimes seems filled with people who are so certain in their beliefs to the point that they have no compunction about expressing their certainty in a loud and sometimes violent manner. To not have that same degree of certainty in my own beliefs often makes me feel like an outlier, like I have perhaps overlooked some vital clue to the mysteries of our existence that all these others have somehow discovered.

But the more I watch those folks with an absolute high degree of certainty, as they stomp their feet and wave their fists and guns, the more comfortable I become in my uncertainty.

They don’t have any more answers than me. They might even have fewer.

Again, I can’t even be certain of that.

One thing I have noticed is that certainty leads to entrenchment of thought and a closing off of one’s mind and imagination. When you have all the answers why do you need to imagine anything more?

When I am uncertain, when I realize I don’t have the answers, I am sometimes now comfortable in that knowledge, much like idea behind the passage above the late and fabled physicist Richard Feynman. In fact, when I feel too certain, too confident, an unpleasant wave will then sweep over me, leaving me a little queasy at the prospect of my own hubris.

Now, don’t get me wrong here. I  do have beliefs. I believe that all people deserve respect, that all people have some redeeming quality and worth. That I –or anyone else, for that matter– am not above any other person nor am I beneath any other. I believe in my responsibility for my actions and for the affects of those actions on others.

I try to keep my certainly limited to the more positive aspects of this mysterious world these days. Then if I am wrong, nobody is hurt, nobody is the worse for my certainty.

That I can live with…

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