the perils of certainty…

I have an abiding distrust – dislike, even – of certainty. If there is one thing I have learned about life it is that we can not really be certain of anything much at all. Thus, it seems to me that when a human pronounces that he/she is absolutely certain of something, what they are expressing is a belief that feels to them to be necessary to their psychological wellbeing… It is, of course, uncomfortable (painful, even) not to have certainties to hold on to. However, I believe (though I’m open to being persuaded otherwise *grin*) that, in keeping our beliefs open to change, there lies the greatest hope we have of negotiating the paths of our lives, of our societies and our species, well…

6 thoughts on “the perils of certainty…

  1. Agreed. Certainty just seems to be the deep moat and impenetrable wall that protects something fragile – or perhaps nothing – inside.

    Whereas the winds and the waves flow through so much, and take every stab and every experience without being broken.

    Sometimes, though, I find those who are certain are passionate. When they defend their beliefs, perhaps out of fear that should those beliefs shatter, they would shatter as well, they can put forth a mesmerizing force of emotion. Emotion that is just beautiful for its strength. It is like the cornered man who pulls off a miracle. Those who can accept uncertainty, however, I feel become more detached. At least, I speak from my own experience. As they do not cling to anything, are not stationary, they are not as easily [emotionally] moved, since they are already moving…

    1. you put it all more poetically than I did… However, I would suggest that this emotion you ascribe to ‘believers’ is a reactive one. At it’s best it IS mesmerizing and, even, beautiful – however, if it is pushed, it turns to anger. The world has suffered, and is suffering, the consequences of such anger…

  2. Hmmm… Not sure whether I’d agree, but that may be a matter of semantics.

    I am CERTAIN that I don’t have 20/20 vision, for example.
    I am convinced of a lot of things, but then again:
    ‘I am certain of …’ isn’t the same as ‘I will always be certain of …’.

    1. your lack of 20/20 vision is a fact (though there are alternative therapists who would tell you that’s not invariably true) – it’s not a belief… and it was certainty in beliefs I was talking about…

  3. Ahhh… But one could argue when beliefs are facts and facts are beliefs!?

    There’s people out there for who Creation of Earth in 6 days, 6000 years ago is fact.

    But – as I guessed…. Semantics! 😉

    1. My feeling is that it is wiser to err on the side of doubt than certainty. People who believe the world was created in 6 days 6000 years ago are way off to the other side of that spectrum. As you say, it’s semantics: the label “fact” is a moveable feast…

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