The Need for Uncertainty

I believe it is part of human nature to want certainty, and part of reality that we can’t have it. The reason we can’t have it is best explained in the Buddhist notion of impermanence, which says that everything changes. You may want to resist that notion, but allow me to remind you of a few truths.

1. When you drive your new car off the lot it depreciates thirty percent because driving it down that driveway changed it from new to used.

2. Children grow every day, and in both children and adults cells in our bodies change minute by minute.

3. You aren’t as thin, fat, tall, short, balding, hairy, attractive, or ugly as you were last year.

4. You can’t run as fast or as far as you used to, you can’t jump as high as you once did, and no matter what it is you can’t do it as long as you once did.

5. You are one day older than you were yesterday.

I could go on and on, but unless you are in complete denial you see the point. Even from moment to moment we change because we have had different experiences since the last time you encountered us. If you doubt that we struggle with that as a culture, look at all of the advertising that promises to make us look younger, from skin care products to new work outs, cosmetic surgeries, herbal remedies, diets, and a host of others, denial around change is a multi-billion dollar industry. The sad thing is that no matter how much you buy into that industry everything is still changing all the time.

Even institutional religion gets into our fear of change by offering black and white solutions to very gray situations and questions. The Ten Commandments, the Bible, and the teachings of this or that denominational hierarchy encourage you to “just do this” and everything will be fine. Give the Church all your money and you will get it back tenfold, and if it doesn’t work well you just didn’t have enough faith. Stay with your husband even though it is an abusive relationship or else we won’t give you the Sacraments. Get into ex-gay therapy. Anyone who has tied to apply this kind of approach for more than a day or two has come to realize that life is not a one size fits all proposition, and these concrete solutions just don’t work. For my part, I believe this kind of dynamic is a big reason for people becoming disenchanted with institutional religion – what they are selling simply doesn’t work!

A healthy spirituality, on the other hand, should help us to cope with life’s changes and to face the truth that life’s issues are not black and white. It needs to move us toward accepting the truth of impermanence – and of the related truth of interconnectedness. Not only does everything change all the time, but all of us – as well as all of the creation – are interconnected. Everything we do affects everyone and everything else, either directly or indirectly.

Will we get older? Yes, and eventually we will die, so why not enjoy the journey for what it is – openly, honestly, being attentive to the present moment so that we actually experience what is going on rather than sleep through life? Let’s face death honestly too, realizing that it is not the end but only a transition. Let’s also recognize that transition can be understood many different ways – as a trip to heaven, reincarnation, rebirth, and a host of others.

Above all, let’s recognize the we need to get comfortable with uncertainty and change, because they are what makes the world go ’round!

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