Escaping Uncertainty


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Certainty                           -                      Uncertainty
Solid                                 -                       Liquid
Known                              -                       Unknown 
Actuality                           -                       Potentiality
Closed                               -                      Open
Rest                                   -                      Motion
Planned                             -                       Random
Control                              -                       Chaos
Simple                               -                       Complex

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Uncertainty is synonymous with creativity. Once you know everything then the game is over.

A mystery bears fruit; it gives and gives, providing us with a plentiful source of nourishment. In explaining the mystery we kill it, and it will no longer give us fruit.

The Child craves certainty, and the Parent likes being certain. The Adult knows that few things in life are certain, and attempts to tolerate ambivalence.


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Mystery, or unknowing, is energy. As soon as a mystery is explained, it ceases to be a source of energy.

If we question deep enough there comes a point where answers, if answers could be given, would kill.

We may want to dam the river; but we dam the spring at our peril. In fact, since 'God' is unknowable, we cannot dam the spring of basic existential mystery. 'God' is the energy of all questions and questing; and so the ultimate source of all action and volition.

[John Fowles]
The Aristos, p. 27


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Religious worldview - there is a mystery at the heart of everything. There is a ceiling to our ambition. Everything cannot be known. Man is finite, God is infinite.

Scientific worldview - all mysteries can be solved. There is no ceiling on our ambition, no limit to how high we can fly. Everything can be known. Man is infinite, God does not exist.


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Everything has a secret. 

Everything has an essence that cannot be known. On the outside everything seems to make sense, but on the inside there is a Godly spark that cannot be explained.

For all of us, there is a dimension which we can never grasp, the dimension that lies beyond our being.

[Tzvi Freeman]
'Secret Samech'


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If the arts don’t hurt, why have them?

It’s only modern vanity which supposes that everything can be known or that only what is knowable has a claim upon our interest. The artist and the priest know that there are mysteries beyond anything that can be done with words, sounds or forms.

If we want to live without this sense of mystery, we can of course, but we should be very suspicious of the feeling that everything coheres and that the arts, like everything else, fit comfortably into our lives.

[Denis Donoghue]
The Arts Without Mystery, p. 21


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What men really want is not knowledge, but certainty.

[Bertrand Russell]
Interview in 'The Listener', 1964


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The majority of human beings are only too ready to follow a leader who professes complete conviction, since such a course relieves them from the anxiety inseparable from uncertainty, and from the effort of thinking for themselves.

It is not difficult to point to recent political examples of leaders exhibiting single-minded confidence of a comparable kind, however narrowly based.

As Norman Cohn demonstrated in The Pursuit of the Millennium, utter conviction lends charisma [...] to figures [...]

[Anthony Storr]
Freud, p.125

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Lacan suggested that though we believe ourselves to be democrats, most of us are remarkably interested in finding (and then worshipping) authority figures who will promise us the earth.
 
We desire to have someone else in charge who can make everything OK, someone who is, in a sense, an ideal parent – and we bring this peculiar-sounding bit of our psychological fantasies into the way we navigate politics.

'Jacques Lacan'


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While preachers preach of evil fates
Teachers teach that knowledge waits
Can lead to hundred-dollar plates
Goodness hides behind its gates
But even the president of the United States
Sometimes must have
To stand naked.

[Bob Dylan]
"It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)"


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The separation from wife and children, the breaking up of a settled establishment, and the going from the certain to the uncertain - all this was for a moment painful, but I had inured myself to an uncertain life.

I think it is wrong to expect certainties in this world, where all else but God that is Truth is an uncertainty. All that appears and happens about and around us is uncertain, transient. 

But there is a Supreme Being hidden therein as a Certainty, and one would be blessed if one would catch a glimpse of that certainty and hitch one's waggon to it.

The quest for that Truth is the summum bonum of life.

[Gandhi]
The Story of My Experiments with Truth, p.235

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Of all the qualities in a manager conductive to innovation and initiative, a degree of uncertainty may be the most powerful.

If a manager is confident but uncertain - confident that the job will get done but without being certain of exactly the best way of doing it - employees are likely to have more room to be creative, alert, and self-starting. When working for confident but uncertain leaders, we are less likely to feign knowledge or hide mistakes, practices that can be costly to a company.

Admission of uncertainty leads to a search for more information, and with more information there may be more options.

[Ellen Langer]
Mindfulness, p.143

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Without the random, there can be no new thing [...] creative thought must always contain a random component.

[Gregory Bateson]
Mind and Nature, p. 160, 200


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To me, it’s the avenue to insanity, to presume if you keep studying you’ll find the answers.

As I got older, I was more able to accept the idea that you don’t have certainty of this earth; rather than make you more perplexed and worried, it actually lightens the load when you realize there are no certainties.

[David Bowie]


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To be able to feel ambivalent about someone is, for Kleinians, an enormous psychological achievement and the first marker on the path to genuine maturity. 

The child will gradually perceive that there is in truth no entirely good and no entirely bad breast, both belong to a mother who is a perplexing mixture of the positive and the negative: a source of pleasure and frustration, joy and suffering.

These complicated psychological realisations belong to what Klein called ‘the depressive position,’ a moment of soberness and melancholy when the growing child takes on board (unconsciously) the idea that reality is more complicated and less morally neat than it had ever previously imagined: the mother (or other people generally) cannot be neatly blamed for every setback; almost nothing is totally pure or totally evil, things are a perplexing, thought-provoking mixture of the good and bad… 

Unfortunately, in Klein’s analysis, not everyone makes it to the depressive position, for some get stuck in a mode of primitive splitting she termed (somewhat dauntingly) the ‘paranoid-schizoid position’. 

For many years, even into adulthood, these cursed people will find themselves unable to tolerate the slightest ambivalence: keen to preserve their sense of their own innocence, they must either hate or love. They must seek scapegoats or idealise.

'Melanie Klein'  

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Anomalies are unsettling because they represent everything that lies outside the domain of the understood world. Complexity lacks the simplifying and constraining boundaries defining the objects that characterize known territory.

In consequence, we have profound, a priori motivation to avoid anomaly, to ignore complexity, and to maintain the structural integrity of our belief systems. 

Anything unexpected (new phenomena, new ideas, new people) re-introduces the overwhelming complexity that our beliefs simplify. This introduced complexity, in turn, threatens the stability and security that our beliefs tentatively confer on existence.

Freud described religious beliefs as illusions, motivated by wish-fulfillment. Such beliefs can be more accurately understood as culturally-shared and accepted strategies for pragmatically managing complexity.

[Jordan B. Peterson]
‘Complexity Management Theory: Motivation for Ideological Rigidity and Social Conflict’, in Cortex, December 2002, p. 455


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One of the strongest motives in modern life is to explain everything and preferably to explain it away. 

The philosopher Gabriel Marcel has distinguished a mystery from a problem in this way. ‘A problem,’ he says, ‘is something which bars my passage. It is before me in its entirety. A mystery is something in which I find myself caught up, and whose essence is therefore not to be before me in its entirety. It is a proper character of problems to be reduced to detail: mystery, on the other hand, i s something which cannot be reduced to detail.’

A character in Yeats’s play The Resurrection says: ‘What if there is always something that lies outside knowledge, outside order? What if the irrational return?' 

The gist of the matter is: a problem is something to be solved; a mystery is something to be witnessed and attested.

[Denis Donoghue]
The Arts Without Mystery, p. 12


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Sailing the Turbulent Seas
Full Spectrum
Wishy-washy
Are you sure?
Hold It Still
Mind Your Language
Look again
Don't commit to it
Learn, to be mindless
Make it Big, or Make it Right?
Playing the Art Game | Imminent (Double)Agents
Playing the Art Game | Art as In-between
Playing the Art Game | Erich Fromm : Spontaneity
Empty Container
Entertaining Ideas
Dangers of Dogmatism
Making Sense
Imitation of Christ
Assuming a Position
Walk a Straight Line 
Go Your Own Way
Ownership
Taking the Rough with the Smooth
Beware Agapanthus
Open Wound
In-between
What do you think?
Where language ends and art begins
Citizens of the Universe
Incursions of the Unknown 
Do Not Disturb 
A Friendly Challenge
The Eternal Ideas
Everything and Nothing
Open Wound 
The Tyranny of Novelty 
Do you have control (or does control have you)? 
Familiar Territory
Deflation
Living Things and Dead Things

1 comment:

  1. You people and sixty-two million other Americans are listening to me right now. Because less than three percent of you people read books. Because less than fifteen percent of you read newspapers. Because the only truth you know is what you get over this tube.

    Right now, there is a whole, an entire generation that never knew anything that didn't come out of this tube. This tube is the gospel, the ultimate revelation. This tube can make or break Presidents, Popes, Prime Ministers. This tube is the most awesome, god-damned force in the whole godless world. And woe is us if it ever falls into the hands of the wrong people [...]

    Listen to me! Television is not the truth. Television is a god-damned amusement park. Television is a circus, a carnival, a traveling troupe of acrobats, story tellers, dancers, singers, jugglers, sideshow freaks, lion tamers and football players. We're in the boredom-killing business.

    So if you want the truth, go to your God, go to your gurus, go to yourselves because that's the only place you're ever gonna find any real truth. But man, you're never gonna get any truth from us. We'll tell you anything you want to hear.

    We lie like hell! We'll tell you that Kojack always gets the killer, and nobody ever gets cancer in Archie Bunker's house. And no matter how much trouble the hero is in, don't worry. Just look at your watch - at the end of the hour, he's gonna win. We'll tell you any shit you want to hear. We deal in illusions, man. None of it is true!

    But you people sit there day after day, night after night, all ages, colors, creeds - we're all you know. You're beginning to believe the illusions we're spinning here. You're beginning to think that the tube is reality and that your own lives are unreal. You do whatever the tube tells you. You dress like the tube, you eat like the tube, you raise your children like the tube. You even think like the tube.

    This is mass madness. You maniacs. In God's name, you people are the real thing. We are the illusion. So turn off your television sets. Turn them off now. Turn them off right now. Turn them off and leave them off. Turn them off right in the middle of this sentence I am speaking to you now. Turn them off!

    Dialogue from the film "Network"

    ReplyDelete