I’ve been thinking a lot about the human need for certainty. From the big questions to the smallest details we seem to always want to be sure of the answer.
It seems the higher our need for emotional safety, the more certainty we need.
In this way, our need for certainty can almost become an addiction as we avoid the inevitable truth that the universe is an uncertain place for us humans, and we are not really sure about anything.
Yet, foolishly, we go around acting like we have all the answers. That this is it. We adamantly defend our views on everything. From what the nature of the universe is to what dishwashing detergent works best. We convince ourselves that our view is right.
It just has to be right.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN IF WE AREN’T SURE OF SOMETHING?
However, a lot of our problems stem from this fear of uncertainty. Until we admit that life is one big uncertainty, we remain ideologically, and developmentally stagnant. We cease to ask the important questions, test our boundaries, and challenge ourselves. Instead, we bind ourselves to a comfortable norm or conformity that serves as a cozy blanket we can wrap ourselves around when times get tough.
WHAT ARE FEARS?
Fears are the internal conflict we feel when we attempt to predict the future but, at the same time, know we can’t. It is us grabbing on to certainties we know are ultimately no more reliable than a random fortune cookie message.
It is our deep knowledge that life is one big uncertainty.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO EMBRACE OUR FEARS?
It means embracing the uncertainties of life. It means being okay with the ambiguous moments when we really don’t know what the hell the past, present, or future means. It means staying within those moments and listening to what they might teach us, rather than filling those spaces with more fortune cookie messages.
Ironically, the sooner we embrace uncertainty, the sooner we can fully plunge ourselves into all that life has to offer. Life is uncertain because it is constantly changing. There is an exhilaration that comes with not knowing what will happen next. We can immerse ourselves in the infinite possibilities of who we might be in the future.
So where should our sense of safety come from when we embrace uncertainty? For me, personally, it comes from the fact that we (humans) are all in this together. We are all uncertain together. It is how we continue asking, contemplating, and questioning. It is the nature of our lives.
We must allow ambiguity to become possibility.
WHAT ARE THE STORIES WE CREATE?
In the Zen Buddhist tradition, it is a goal to end conversations with more questions. Essentially to come up with more uncertainties and to highlight the fact that no answer is never complete. This sounds like a great goal to me. How many disagreements, arguments, and rifts between us could have been avoided by ending the conversation with a unifying question that neither side could answer?
Maya Angelou has said the following:
“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”
We live because we have our own unique perspectives to offer, but none of us have any real answers about life.
We are just singing our song.