Being Happy in and with Uncertainty

There is a domain whose existence we are aware of but the contents of which – for now – remain beyond our ability to know. Hence my commitment to epistemic humility as a spiritual practice.

I say “for now” because I cannot rule out the possibility of advances – technological, psychological, et cetera – that will open up this domain to knowing.

But for now we can say that we don’t know what we don’t know and we are aware of this fact. Thus, there is a domain whose existence we are aware of but the contents of which are beyond our ability to know.

Therefore, uncertainty is inherent in this ongoing experience. We have no choice but to relate to it.

One suggestion with respect to relating is to recognize our apparently innate tendency to confuse this domain with eternity and/or infinity.

Eternity and infinity are qualities that unknowing can appear to have. And since we don’t like uncertainty, we readily assume that what we are dealing with is not uncertainty but rather infinity and eternity.

From there it’s an easy hop to rename uncertainty “God” and assume we are having a spiritual experience. “I am that.” “I am awareness itself.” “I am one with God.”

And so forth.

But what if we leave God out of it? What if we leave infinity and eternity out of it and just make friends with uncertainty?

That is, rather than see uncertainty as a problem to be solved, why not see it as a companion for a journey? Or a partner for a dance? Or even the music to which we dance, if that metaphor works better.

This doesn’t mean we can’t be in dialogue with uncertainty with a goal of being less uncertain or uncertain differently. By all means study. By all means explore the inner and outer landscapes.

But perhaps adopt a view of this study and exploration that is less linear and colonial in nature. That is, consider that our study and exploration is unlikely to have an end (linear) and is unlikely to ever bring uncertainty permanently under our control (colonial).

When we view the world and our living not as a problem to be solved but as a partner for a dance, then our living changes. It becomes happier in the sense of being less rigid, conditional and exclusive. We aren’t trying to control life or restrict life. We are just responding to life as it responds to us.

Paradoxically, when we no longer insist the world resolve into absolute divine answers or patterns, then hints of divinity suddenly appear. Life becomes vibrant and dynamic, a welcoming flow rather than an opposing force. We feel joy and peace. We feel free.

Thus, rather than attack unknowing or uncertainty, perhaps we ought to lean into it. Perhaps we ought to question the tendency to see uncertainty as problematic or somehow other.

Rather, can we see it as an invitation to play rather than work? And then go ahead and play? Will we not – at last – be happy?

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  1. Sean,

    As I read this, I found myself in a similar place, yet slightly different. I need to accept my uncertainty, and the emotions that go with it and trust that as I give attention to the things about which I am uncertain or to the uncertainty itself, things will evolve. Or not. And that’s OK.

    Thanks for the article. It is timely and appreciated.


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