Monday, October 02, 2006


Uncertainty is predominant today, in the world and in me. I’m uncertain exactly where I’m heading ,apart from toward death. I’ve rarely felt certain. I’ve frequently found myself admiring people who seemed certain. At the same time I distrusted certainty as being primarily a compensatory assertion. We can never really be absolutely certain. We just behave as if we are, because otherwise we’d never do anything.

It’s always a mixed bag of emotions and motivations. I’ve spent a great deal of mental energy sifting and appraising ,trying to discern what I was certain of. Certainty is more akin to a feeling, based on a desire for stability. Not to be confused with conviction which appears, on the surface at least, to be a more thought through position. Uncertainty is also such a feeling, a particularly debilitating one as it blocks purpose, action and sense of progress. Perhaps, after all, this search for certainty has always been a waste of time and effort.

I like certainties, people likes certainties, our society likes them too. Politicians love them and get voted in because of them. They also get voted out when we become uncertain about them or we no longer believe in their certainties anymore. The pursuit of certainty is a beautiful but false god.

In the last few years I’ve been trying to create a new personal manifesto. Though it’s content is changing all the time. First, I leave my job to pursue a different relationship to work and life. I decided then that I actually wanted to work part-time, to devote more energy to painting and writing. The part-time work leaves me in debt, so I’m forced to look for fulltime work. Lately I’ve wanted to train as a counselor. I’d work full time in order to clear my debts and save money to pay for it. Today, all those previous initiatives, which felt pretty certain at the time, now feel uncertain. The energy and emotion behind them having run out of steam.

Previously, out of uncertainty, I allowed circumstance to deal me my future course. Desire playing second fiddle to it. On a practical level this worked. On a spiritual level, it took its consequences on the robustness of my body and soul. Whilst I’m currently trying to avoid perpetuating this approach, my lifestyle is inevitable in a fragile balance between circumstance and desire. Basically, I’ve never really wanted to work, but have had to of course. Money being a necessity in order to function. Work gives some financial stability, but its pragmatic urges suffocate purposeful desire and replace them with consumerism. In trying to give my desires time and space to breathe, I keep having to work around obstacles that life throws in my way. It’s a bit of a bugger, but this is how reality works.

I believe on some unconscious level I hold a childlike view that life is a wish fulfilling jewel. Where I only have to be certain what I desire the most and so it will appear. The consequences of this, in the failure of the universe to comply, are pretty grim. For its a dreadful fairy tale to unwittingly be living you’re life by.

I am beginning to believe I should take uncertainty more seriously. It is surely more in alignment with reality. The outright pursuit of certainty just leads to frustration and depression. Paradoxically, by embracing purposelessness and insecurity instead of pursuing fulfillment, I might be happier. Happiness, as Quentin Crisp puts it, is the art of living in the present, desire being entirely future orientated.

“ The essence of happiness is its absoluteness. It is automatically the state of being of those who live in the continuous present, all over their bodies.
No effort is required to define or even attain happiness but enormous concentration is needed to abandon everything else”

The things one could abandon are the desire for fulfillment, security and ultimately the desire for desires itself. Which brings us back to the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths yet again; desires lead to craving; craving leads to suffering; one becomes free from suffering by being free from craving and desire; one learns how to be free of suffering by practicing the Buddha’s teachings on sila (ethics ) samadhi ( meditation ) and pranja ( wisdom ) .

All the things in life that I’ve pursued in order to find happiness have rarely been durable, which has just left me craving for something else. Perhaps I need to be more perverse instead of persevering. Recognise and enjoy happiness when it comes along and not be too down hearted when it doesn’t. Ultimate happiness lies well beyond certainty and uncertainty. If only I could see that more clearly now, through the fog of desire and the daily drizzle of circumstance.

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