I would like to focus for a moment on uncertainty.
If you’re a Breaking Bad fan, you’ve heard the name ‘Heisenberg’. If you know the reference, you know the real Heisenberg was a German physicist famous for his Uncertainty Principle (which apparently made ole Albert E. pretty displeased). If you’re like me, you don’t know much about this principle except that a) it has to do with Quantum Physics and b) it posits we can’t really know anything. (If I’m being honest, I took pretty much all that knowledge from this clip from the Coen Bros’ underrated A Serious Man.)
It’s funny that one of the massive conclusions of physics, a science directed toward fixity and certainty, is that we can’t know anything for certain. It’s also funny that regardless of this principle, most of us direct our lives toward certainty. Certainty is comfortable. Certainty is predictable. Certainty is protection against realities we’d prefer not to let in. But uncertainty? That’s darkness. That’s unpredictable. That’s fear.
Or is it? (Cue dramatic music.)
At this juncture of my life, basically everything forward has become uncertain, including, but not limited to:
I seek no brownie points for this. This uncertain future is my decision. What I wish instead to espouse is how liberating it can be to embrace uncertainty. In uncertainty exists possibility. From a particular perspective, each moment is uncertain. Each conversation, each vantage point, each car passed, each problem rising–we cannot see their coming. Who knows where a spontaneous encounter may lead.
On the other hand, it would be irresponsible to live in such a way that all is open in uncertainty, for then we would more than likely accomplish nothing significant. Extended focus requires fixity, solidity, foundation, certainty (even if Heisenberg-ians would argue these to be mere illusions of certainty). Our approach to the future, to chart an alternate pathway, mustn’t be an either/or regarding certainty and uncertainty. It’s both, in relationship, interacting, expanding.
As I have told people about my decision to move to Colorado, I’ve experienced a diversity of responses. Most often, not surprisingly: What are you going to do? The natural question. My response has been pretty consistent: I’m going to drive to Colorado, WWOOF for two months, then figure it out. Often, a flood of questions follows: What about money? Shelter? Insurance? Community? How are you going to make a living and survive? Several people have spoken to me as if I am a disillusioned child who has lost his way. I do not take these responses personally. I understand them, for I received similar responses in my past when I abruptly changed my major of Mechanical Engineering to Philosophy after my Sophomore year of college, as well as in 2012 when I told people I was going to California to hitchhike for a few months. Here is what I have come to realize:
These questions reflect the questioner’s fear, not my own.
If I internalize these fears, I am betraying the instincts that led me to change course in the first place, the instincts I chose to honor. I am receiving, not overcoming, fear. When we move into uncertainty, we must focus on overcoming fear, for these moves require us to overcome fears we do not yet know we carry. But with determination and intention toward the goal, toward growing the vision, we will realize these fears do not have jurisdiction, and we will become more rounded, more loving stewards of service and fellowship for it.
There are many things to consider, ponder, and plan for when moving into the uncertain future. Yet there are also far less than we often think necessary. If a lifestyle of certainty and predictability grows stifling and dissatisfying, fear of the unknown is a pretty cruddy reason to remain where we are. There’s always new possibilities out there. By definition, these possibilities are unknown until we encounter them, until they are made known to us.
Man. That’s starting to sound like Schrodinger’s Cat. I’m not going to pretend like I understand that one in the slightest.