Certainty is Dead

I avoid any news article that has a headline with the words “may,” “might,” “can” or “could.” To me, that indicates that the article is not reportage of current events, but rather conjecture (at best) or a wild guess (at worst). As events around the world continue to unfold, I grow increasingly annoyed at articles that state with absolute certainty what will or will not happen in the future.

Cities are dead. Workplaces are dead. Top-down management is dead. Business travel is dead.

If COVID-19 has demonstrated anything, it’s that certainty is dead. No one actually knows what the future holds.

Humility over hubris

The sweeping proclamations about what is certainly going to happen demonstrate the same kind of hubris and overconfidence that got our world into the trouble it’s in.

The rapidity with which an invisible enemy brought modern civilization to its knees should have taught us one thing: humility. The specter of underpaid “essential workers” dutifully stocking our grocery shelves should have encouraged modesty. The bravery with which nurses and physicians faced down a still-not-fully-understood disease should continue to evoke awe.

“Instead of grasping for certainty, wisdom rides the question, lives the question…. When the quest for certainty and control is pushed to the background, the possibility of wonder returns. Wonder provides a gateway to wise insight.”

Tobin Hart

All this swagger and swash that is splashed across the media, both traditional and social, leave a metallic taste in my mouth. It’s impertinence without insight.

The quiet of wisdom

Perhaps the vainglorious chest-thumping can give way to a wiser, quieter observation of the world unfolding.

Certainly, there are many people around the world who are picking up the mantle of the moment and are trying to coax the world to a new path. Gently or forcefully, they are pushing for change, not a return but a renewal.

“Alongside all our knowing … must be the humble ‘knowing that we do not know.’ That’s why the great tradition of [contemplation] is balanced by both kataphatic knowing, through images and words, and apophatic knowing, through silence, images, and beyond words. Apophatic knowing is the empty space around the words.”

Richard Rohr

Knowing in the empty space

Societies are slowly opening. For many reasons, many of us will likely spend more time at home, on our own, for some time. This extended ‘leave’ is a continued invitation to linger a bit in the empty space.

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