How do you deal with uncertainty?
With the future perilously uncertain, and inherently so, I think it wise we consider this question at some length.
Allow me to invoke catastrophe to expose just how pernicious uncertainty can hit our gut, and have effects on us in the most wrenching of ways.
Consider this: You are living in a nation that at once seems calm, only to find moments later a litany of bombs dropped from overhead. Immediately the peace is blown to smithereens as a dust filled mushroom cloud fills the sky.
You survive the bombing, but obviously no longer feel safe. You realize you must flee immediately. If you’re to survive, you better as hell find a way out, and fast.
This striking example of how uncertainty destroys our peace is a macrocosm of what happens when we are not adequately prepared in life for what lies ahead. This is how entire nations collapse. But here in the United States, you likely aren’t much concerned about that right now. Nevertheless, catastrophes hit at a local level too. They have the tendency of destroying individuals, even in the greatest of nations.
It’s important to recognize that at any given moment in time something entirely catastrophic can happen to you or to I or to someone we love. We are not exempt from the ills of this world.
Luckily for us, catastrophic moments are rare. Whereas hundreds of thousands of migrants in the Middle East are publicly experiencing these horrors of life right now, we have some sense of normalcy and habit and structure to keep our inner catastrophes contained to the private.
As a matter of fact, a lucky few of us haven’t even experienced what could be classified as a real catastrophe yet. This is truly a remarkable thing, and something we should be eminently grateful for.
But rest assured, if you haven’t experienced it yet, you will. Catastrophe will hit, and it will leave you in momentary ruin. How ruinous it becomes is up to you. So, I ask again, how do you deal with uncertainty? When catastrophe hits, will you be ready?
I suggest you better be. See we don’t often anticipate catastrophes before they happen, for if we did we more often then not could prevent them. By their very nature, catastrophes are blindsiding. They happen to us in uncertain times.
Now let’s take a more everyday, and hence, more mundane example of how uncertainty takes place in your life.
Take the next conversation you have. You might have an idea of who you will speak with next, but maybe not. You probably have some idea of how the conversation will go, but you aren’t exactly certain of the precise verbiage that will be used. Even in the most controlled of settings, there lies some variance in how things will go.
Our day to day lives are met with this small scale uncertainty all the time. Our developed world has done a great job of increasing certainty by managing our chaos and structuring our society, but we can never fully eradicate uncertainty. Chaos and uncertainty will always exist, and our best hope is to adequately manage it, both emotionally, physically, and neurophysiologically.
I could speak at length about whether or not we are doing a good job of this today, but I’ll leave it for another time. Right now I wish for us to merely acknowledge the uncertainty around us, and to embrace it for what it is.
Heraclitus, one of our ancient wester philosophers said “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”
We are in a constant state of flux. No matter how much we try and temper our states, we are not and we never will be in a state of inertia. We will always be moving on some level in uncertain ways.
So the question becomes then, what do we do with uncertainty? Do we cower away in fear of it? Do we meet it with curious eyes? Do we jump into it with creative jubilee? Or do we wither away from it in melancholic desolation?
How do we best use uncertainty to our advantage?
I quote Shakespeare here, when he said, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.”
If you think of the world in this way, as Shakespeare did, you can begin to recognize the fun in it. You get to play the leading role in your story, and all the people around you get to play a part in it. How grand.
Until of course, the play turns tragic.
Because oh yes, there are enemies and villains out there too. There are also many authority figures, telling you how to play your part. Push back against those characters too much and in the wrong ways, and they very well may kill you.
Conversely though, there may be children that enter your stage, and they may be lost and need your help. There may be friends that are in need that you can help provide for. How nice.
There is a lot about the world stage that you cannot control, but there is a lot you can control also.
You cannot control those who enter and exit but you can control your character, and play out the part that you wish. And if you play the part well enough, you can leave a great impact on this world. It’s up to you really. That’s what freedom is. Having that ability to spin it anyway you like.
Recognizing this fact, for me at least, is incredible. It tells me that I can do whatever I want. What power I can hold.
But that power is a testament not to me, but to how powerful and how incredible the enlightenment era is. This blip in time that we live in, insofar as we can tell, is unlike all others. That’s why you mustn’t wait, you must take advantage of it. This is not a time to be complacent, this is not a time to be lazy about your potential. You are living in the most incredible of times, seize it. You might be our only hope.
Because although we live in this incredible time, we also are on the verge of collapse. Just like anything, the best of times, are dangerously close to the worst of times. We don’t need Charles Dickens to tell us that we now have the capability to be nearly whatever we like. And that is dangerous. Think about it, all it takes is the wrong people in charge to watch it all fall.
So while you get to be in charge of your own role in society, you don’t get to keep playing if someone comes along and blows up the stage. It only takes one bad actor for it all to come crumbling down. That’s why plays often become tragic, and succumb to catastrophe. We must not allow it to be so, we only get one known shot at this.
It is with this in mind, that I am charting a different kind of a life for myself. I am setting myself upon a path that will allow, through hardship and strife, me to become the best man I can be. I hope you are too, man (or woman — it’s all the same right?!).
If you are not though, don’t despair. There is yet time. The journey of 10,000 miles begins with one step. Let your past not represent your future.
But to further contextualize this I want to trace the the steps of our enlightened forefathers a bit.
Three to four hundred years ago, the Enlightenment Era took over. The heights of Western Civilization began to bear fruit, and out we came.
But let us understand what enlightenment is — for I worry the concept is being lost. Enlightenment is quite literally the light bulb going on in your head. When you get a good idea in your head, you are metaphorically said to have found the light — you’ve been enlightened. You’ve been better informed, and the lightbulb in you has gone on.
Now, after the lightbulb is on, and after it provides you with the positive insight you need, it wants you to spread it. Which is why it becomes very hard to live in a world that doesn’t recognize the light as light. In fact, enlightened ideas are usually met with apathy and ridicule in society, you must be prepared for it.
That is why it is said that ignorance is bliss. If you have never seen the light, then how can you be let down? For you don’t know any better. Blissfully ignorant you are.
To avoid this state of ignorance, which is how evil takes rise, then we need to understand how enlightenment took charge. We need to understand the underlying phenomena behind enlightenment, so that we can make sure the concept endures.
The enlightenment era, at heart was a rebellion.
It was a rebellion from the old ways of doing and knowing things, and a summoning in of a new way of doing and thinking about things.
From this enlightenment, we emerged. We happened upon newfound ways to live, that came to give us a better life. It exploded with the advent of better science, and it created for us bold, untold futures. Discoveries were made and accepted that looking back, entirely eviscerated the way things used to be, and replaced them with a whole new way of living. We function entirely different now because of them — it’s easy to forget this.
But make no mistake, it was this rebellion of thought and ideas that allowed enlightenment to take off. Prior to it, all knowledge was authoritarian. Something was said to be true, because the powers that be told us it was so. The kings and the monarchs of old needed to control society, which is why questioning of the truth was so harshly met.
The trial and death of Socrates is perhaps the most iconic and compelling example of this. More recently, take Galileo who took to the streets to profess his truths, and was thereby charged with heresy, sentenced to house arrest, and forbidden from ever speaking or writing again. Is there a modern day example here of Edward Snowden and Julian Assange? Something to think about.
Understand: The truth hurts, and it disrupts authoritative society.
The enlightenment era, and its enduring struggle to obtain, promote, and profess truth is always under seize by power figures that be. In some ways it’s incredible that we’ve gotten so far with it.
The Renaissance era really was transformative for us here. We found a way to break through, and live our lives in a whole new way. These technological advancements of ours is what gave way to them and allowed them to carry on. But they have a pervasive effect on society, and our advancements are now so rapid that we can hardly catch up to them — and we certainly can’t seem to control the consequences of their advances.
Technology is changing the way we think, the way we operate, and hence is speeding up our problems. The social world around us is computing information so rapidly that our feeble minds can’t fathom it. With it, chaos is spreading rapidly. The ordered world is having trouble catching up.
And with it, fear is rising, which is giving rise again to authoritarian rule. Law and Order is back, and with a vengeance.
Again, authoritarian order is the antithesis to Enlightenment. It tells you what to think, and pressures you not to question. Which is why we have to fight unwaveringly for enlightenment again. It is why we have to rebel.
The barriers of modern day society will shackle us. They already have. An undue burden has been placed on our youth, and now we have to somehow come to rescue and redeem ourselves from our misguided ways. A glorious redemption it will have to be. Sacrifices of the highest order will have to be made.
But at heart a rebellion of thought is what we need, to spark us back into life. It needs to be heard far and wide and break through to the heights of our power.
Which is exactly why I sit here today and write to you. And it is exactly why I am taking to the world to speak my truth. I’ve put my academic pursuits on hold and my future career endeavors on the back burner, as I’ve hopped on a whole new train of thoughts and experiences. I’m excited to tell you more about them. Because here’s the thing, while you can accomplish a fair amount in a classroom, it pales in comparison to the real world.
To leave a real world impact, and to discover all that you can be, you need to step outside and actually live in it. The world is your best teacher, it always has been and it always will be. And it also has a funny way of telling you stories too, if you pay close attention to it.
As John Lennon once said, “Reality leaves a lot to the imagination”. You’ve got to go out and live in this reality if you want your lightbulbs to flicker and stay lit.
So that’s what I’m doing. I recently quit my valet job to pursue these higher ends. It is now my job to create.
Create my reality, create my vision, create my happiness, through meaning and intent.
The artist in me says create at all costs. Write the novel, tell the stories.
The traveler in me says travel far and travel wide. Carve the path, and walk the walk.
The philosopher in me says think all the thoughts, fashion them out, critique them to death, and then build them back up, again and again and again, ad infinitum.
And then of course my favorite, the manifest socializer in me, says create it all. Create cheer and love, create joy and happiness and do so by leading from the heart, and aligning it with our heads.
That’s my role and that’s the part I am going to play. What is yours?
So here I am again, only this time I plan to stay for while. I will bring you my thoughts from the road and my visions from this wayward journey of mine.
I don’t know where it will lead, but I also wouldn’t want to. That’s what makes the play so compelling, and why we keep watching. We all want to know what comes next.
It is also what makes our lives infinitely uncertain, and magnificently so.
I’m infinitely bound indeed, and so are you.
Rather than run from it, I accept my fate and am bound by conviction to play my part in this infinite world of possibilities to the best of my abilities. I hope to see it through to the very end and hope for it to be a gallantly fruitful life I live.
But with so much out of my control, can I be certain it will be?
I most certainly cannot.
Oh, and peace & love you devils!!