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Certain Uncertainty: Meaning, Attachment and Fiction

December 9, 2012

Being certain I’m uncertain is one thing I’m certain.

The concept of knowing with certainty has perplexed me for some years. In high school, university, and, well, life, I encountered people who presented information, retold events and debated with rigid certainty. At times unsure of their validity, while at times privy to countering facts in face of their declarations.

This is not about facts. This is about life–about the relationship between meaning, attachment and conceived fictitious truths. It’s about finding perception to reach solace with oneself and one’s world.

What is seemingly simple in this world is often the most complex, while what is seemingly most complex is due to the fact that humans can dissect and reveal tangible complexities. Beauty rises from what is beyond human reach of understanding and comfort resides in accepting this.

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

~ Leonardo da Vinci

In the spirit of shared muse, I’m writing inspired by reading a museful post by asenseofawakening titled Nonsensical Sensibilities. In brief prose, the author reawakened me to several notable points.

First, a notion is raised questioning why the human condition leads us to seek in and assign meaning to objects, thoughts, ideas, things, etc., curious as to why this impulse often overrides ability to simply let them be and accept them for what they are.

One corresponding viewpoint comes from the Buddhist concept of attachment. Erica Hamilton, Ph.D. in psychology, explores this concept in her elephant journal article Is Your Need for Control Out of Control?

She describes Zen teacher and author Ezra Bayda’s definition of attachment as “simple beliefs–fantasies, in fact–that have become solidified as ‘truth’ in our mind.” This lends rationality to the irrational instance to assume certainty.

Continuing, Ezra notes why people have a natural tendency to assign solidified fact to fantasy, saying attachments–to thoughts, beliefs, anything–convince us that “without some particular person or thing, we can never be free from suffering,” conversely noting “we can’t be happy as long as a particular person, condition or object is in our lives.” Erica justly explores these notions in relation to the scope of personal and societal issues ‘linked to excessive and irrational attachments.’

Striking on a deeper note, this questions whether or not people believe delusional imagination as concrete reality in a psychological effort to find connection in meaning within the world, where without the power to fool self into certainty, the whole scheme fails. Asenseofawakening touches on humanity’s calling for relationships and compassion in An Altruistic Imperative.

Another possibility is that they simply credit misguided or incomplete information as fact, or derive strong opinions. One can only speculate.

This brings me to a second inkling of influence, the one that merits this muse: distorted conviction of certainty.

Not to be absolutely certain is, I think, one of the essential things in rationality.

~ Bertrand Russell

We have already touched on the theory with hypotheses to why, but to build off laid

foundation, I reason another hypothesis to the theory of fanatical fictitious belief, speculating that we spend time misleading ourselves towards making sense of things stems from both social influence driving expectation for us to understand everything and a belief we are capable to do so.

Most importantly, we need to understand there are many things beyond our reach of understanding–coming to terms with this is essential to rational society, where without it, proper reasoning and debate necessary for just, sensible living and authority driving all sectors of life and society are left amiss.

On a more personal scale, individuals benefit wholly from welcoming uncertainty through maintaining integrity and adopting an open mind frame. I do not mean to say that comprehensible subjects are to be thrown under a guise of practiced uncertainty, but that in part of a sensible, mindful livelihood, individuals ought to be comfortable enough with themselves and within social and society settings to embrace worthy areas of uncertainty.

The natural world, in particular, offers abundant phenomena beyond our scope, but even revising smaller fibs, beliefs and convictions, one should find a lighter pep in their step by relishing the unknown.

“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubt”

~ Bertrand Russell

Keep an eye out for a post soon to come on practicing certain uncertainty for betterment in relation to influencing positive adaptation toward sustainable, resilient conditions.

Comments and discussion are welcome.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. December 10, 2012 2:34 am

    Very enjoyable dissertation.

  2. December 10, 2012 4:00 am

    A very good read. I like your referencing and style :-)

    One of the fundamental pillars in life is questioning. One should not accept any truth(s) without questioning it. Questioning presented truths can only be driven by a good degree of uncertainty. Most of today’s accepted world premises and theories came to be because someone questioned, someone was doubtful of a phenomena. To move to the next level and generation we should also be uncertain, we should doubt so that we can question and when that happens we will be open to seeking new answers.

    • December 10, 2012 4:10 pm

      Well said, and meaningful. In some ways it seems, unfortunately so, a majority has come to an understanding that enough people have questioned and studied already and ‘experts’ and currently conducting studies; however, trust of what is established, what is and what seems to be should never reach a level of complete certainty, where it then restricts further progress and rests on what may be a shifty foundation. As you put it, reaching a next level, continually growing, requires an uncertain doubt matched with questions, answers and action towards evolved and adapted understandings, beliefs and ways of life. Thanks for the insight.

  3. January 27, 2013 11:43 am

    Such beautiful writing. Sorry for my late reply, life has kept me preoccupied. I am deeply humbled I’ve inspired you to write such an enlightening collection of thoughts. Truly.

    “This is not about facts. This is about life–about the relationship between meaning, attachment and conceived fictitious truths. It’s about finding perception to reach solace with oneself and one’s world.

    What is seemingly simple in this world is often the most complex, while what is seemingly most complex is due to the fact that humans can dissect and reveal tangible complexities. Beauty rises from what is beyond human reach of understanding and comfort resides in accepting this.

    “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

    ~ Leonardo da Vinci”

    I couldn’t have agreed more. With your post you gave me a much deeper understanding to my previous queries. Looking forward to reading more of your thoughts. You help give light to the world.

    • January 27, 2013 3:38 pm

      Thank you for the kind words, Miles. I’m pleased you enjoyed it and am thankful to you, for your inspiring words that started the flow of thoughts subtly ruminating in my head. : )

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