Monday, April 26, 2010

What is Wrong With Certainty

One thing struck me researching (aka looking it up on Wikipedia) the topic of this world's largest continent - the subject of a future post - and that is the mistake of trading in certainty.

Although conservatives and reactionaries cling to a model of a time and a place that never was, reality swirls around them; confusing and unsettling.

the Left is ritually lambasted for being "impractical" yet the kind of hot blooded, hot headed type who thinks he can go storming off in any direction depending on how 'determined his resolve' and 'sure his purpose' is the very sort of well meaning (perhaps) idiot who embroiled the West in two consecutive costly and never ending wars, to the tune of a herd of Fox network jackasses braying how the Iraq war would all be over in three years.

For that matter, calculated ignorance that allows room for only one interpretation, also contributed to a succession of unwise appointments that systemically and inevitably failed the administration during the noughties.

From immersing myself in Right wing think (which is not unlike plunging into a greasetrap) it is more important to be right than to know the truth. By this I mean that, whereas you or I might start our investigations of religious faith and/or spirituality by going to the services, reading the tracts, speaking to parishioners, a Right wing blogger will typically come in with his or her viewpoint and gather material to support that.

To a degree that is a rational approach to conducting any debate; choose a side and then shore up your position. But the danger always lies in the fact that you personally may not know certain facts in the case and your judgment is in error, in all innocence but wrong anyway. Then there is the altering perspective opened up by changing eras. We discover more and this informs our view of the past as well as the present and future.

Those wanting 'certainty' - or, god help us, 'a return to certainty' - seem to confuse the pride they feel at not being gullible and falling for quackery or nonsense, with a distrust of all things not certain. They cling to the driftwood of a morality that left much unchecked and hidden, comforting themselves that the outward expression of, say, family values, forgives a multitude of sins.

It is only when we confront the fact that the clean cut cowboy of vintage cinema was a confection bearing little resemblance to the real thing, that we can start to see how manufactured their concept of reality is. Even the church is the very den of iniquity it rails against.

There are varying degrees of certainty and much of these are measured in units of time: from the burning up of stars to the splitting of nucleii. What is science fiction to us and to many future generations, is ultimately reality for the planet, which will not last forever. Yes we are the zygotes and embryos, the infants and adolescents of days gone by, and we are the dust of days yet to come. The 'certainty' that we will live and die is offset by an almost infinite accumulation of variables for 'the road not taken'. While we can be sure that some things were beyond our nature, at least at the time, there are other perfectly reasonable courses of action that would have changed us completely.

Suspending the notion of certainty is NOT suspending our belief. Not at all. If anything 'belief' and 'certainty' go hand in hand.


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