I am, in many ways, uncertain.
I'm unsure what I think about News stories, politics, Scientific studies, the nature of reality and God. This isn't a popular position to adopt. One should have absolute conviction about what one thinks otherwise you're a wishy-washy sort of person.
Uncertainty is the core principle of Scepticism. Everyone likes to think they're a sceptic without really understanding what that entails. To be a true sceptic, one should be sceptical of everything. It is said that Pyrrho, the Greek philosopher and father of Scepticism, distrusted his senses to such an extent that he had to be stopped from walking off the edge of a cliff.
That we should be uncertain of things, is supposed to be at the heart of Science. Many of the greatest Scientists understood that whilst we seem to be able to make very good predictions and measurements and create ever more complex technology we are always limited by our human faculties.
We are always reading the measurements with our fallible senses.
For some people, the idea that we can't really know reality is very disturbing but I don't think it needs to be. In my experience, this is where great peace is to be found. If you can come to terms with not knowing everything you may feel a lot calmer.
People like to plan. The problem comes when you don't allow those plans to change.
At the moment, things seem very uncertain in the world and many people are in a state of anxiety. The fact is that things are always uncertain. I could get run over by a bus tomorrow.
Is there anything that we can be certain of? Yes, I believe so but I may find it hard to describe. The big problem, as always, is the thinking mind. Intellectually I can't prove anything absolutely but there is more to me than my intellect.
I am sure that I love my daughter and I am sure that I am alive. These are impossibly deep feelings that are not worth scrutinizing. When people have mystical or even near-death experiences they seem to gain some kind of certainty.
The problems start when feelings are put into words and people become certain of ideas.
But is it possible or wise to live like an ancient Greek philosopher? I don't want to fall off a cliff and so I adopt beliefs. The point is that whilst some beliefs are useful I don't fully subscribe to them. There's always room for doubt.
In the west, we are very binary in our thinking. Right or wrong, up or down, black or white. This is largely thanks to Aristotle and his ideas of logic. Aristotle pronounced that any claim was either true or false.
The history of Eastern thought is very different. Ancient sages in the east proposed a different kind of logic and so any claim
1) Could be “True”,
2) Could be “False”,
3) Could be “Both True and False” or
4) Could be neither “Neither True nor False”.
The rise of Quantum mechanics in the early twentieth century made our binary Western logic seem inappropriate. Subatomic particles don't appear to behave in an either-or manner and so Scientists talk about them in terms of probabilities.
Right this minute, I am in many ways uncertain and I don't mind that.
I can still do things and I can indulge in temporary forms of certainty.
Philosophically speaking, I am not sure of anything but practically I am.
When it comes to leading a happy and healthy life, I think it makes sense to keep things simple. If you focus on solutions you will feel a lot better than if you wallow in your problems. Why you are the way you are is a mystery which you will never fully untangle and trying to do so won't help you overcome anxiety and depression.
As I write this, I am realising that I keep saying the same things in all my articles.
One of the secrets to long term contentment is learning to go with the flow. Let's all relax and embrace uncertainty because what's the alternative?
There's a tendency to think that worrying will somehow keep you safe and there's some truth to that - If you're a hunter-gatherer trying to avoid a sabre-toothed tiger! If you live in the modern world, anxiety won't help you in any way and will, in fact, make your life very difficult indeed.
Physical tension won't help you either. As the weather gets colder we tend to tense our bodies. Instead, try relaxing. Tension won't make you any warmer.