Jester Guru Chronicles, Part 7: The Virtue of Uncertainty

“Uncertainty is so terrible that we often seek to be rid of it, at the hazard of a certain mischief.” ~ Edmund Burke

This is not Gary Z McGee writing this article. This is not even Jester Guru… Or is it? The thing is: you can’t know for sure. The only sound strategy is to be credulous. The only thing you can do in the face of uncertainty is to be okay with the concept of doubt; to be okay with the idea that there are no answers.

Uncertainty1I mean, my real name could be Barbara Blatherstein, or Monk Buddhist Anderson, or, even further down the scale of probability, a monkey named Yeknom pounding a keyboard that just happened to get lucky.

The point is: nothing is certain. Even when you think you’re certain, it is just an illusion that could be shattered with the right type of questioning. And finding the right type of questions is the virtue hidden within uncertainty.

When it comes down to it, the secret of life is to appreciate the joy of being wrong about a great many things, because guess what? We are disturbingly fallible creatures who are prone to making huge mistakes. And that has to be okay.

Understand: the probability that Gary Z McGee is actually writing this article is extremely high. It’s higher for me than it is for you, because I’m me (or at least I think I am), but even for me there is some doubt. It could all be an illusion. It could all be a dream. It could all be a dream within a dream within a dream (my top is still spinning and it may or may not topple by the time I finish writing this piece). I could just be a brain in a vat.

I could be the brain of a thing called God projecting one of His infinite sub-selves through the universal construct into this one ego-soul-self-body that calls itself Gary Z McGee.

Like Schopenhauer said, “The universe is a dream dreamed by a single dreamer, where all the dream characters dream too.”

And the real kick in the pants is that I can never prove it either way. Just like one can never prove the concept of solipsism as being true or untrue. We’re forced to be okay with doubt, and if we’re not okay with it then we are simply foolish.

Like Tony Schwartz said, “Let go of certainty. The opposite isn’t uncertainty. It’s openness, curiosity and a willingness to embrace paradox, rather than choose up sides. The ultimate challenge is to accept ourselves exactly as we are, in the moment, but never stop trying to learn and grow.”no secret

Take the book The Secret for example: It’s filled with hocus-pocus platitudes, wishy-washy superstitions and pseudo-scientific drivel, playing upon the need to be certain. It capitalizes upon the laziness inherent within the human condition.

Sure, it’s good for getting out of a rut or thinking positively when you’re down, or adopting a glass-is-half-full view of life, but if one stops there and isn’t proactive and disciplined, such certainty won’t matter and will actually be counterproductive. There must be action, better yet: there must be disciplined pro-action.

Fellow online writer Mark Manson said it best, “Books like The Secret act as life preservers for people who are in such a dark and miserable place that they feel as though they’re constantly drowning. But the point of a life preserver is to keep you afloat. Eventually you have to learn to swim for shore yourself.”

Swimming for shore is being proactive about your survival. Learning to swim better is having the discipline to become healthier. Just floating around in a life preserver thinking positive thoughts and being certain that you will eventually be saved, or a shark won’t kill you, is lazy, codependent, and just plain ridiculous.

If, as Charles Renouvier wrote, “Properly speaking there is no certainty; there are only people who are certain” then properly speaking there is no Truth; there are only people who seek it.

Absolute certainty may be impossible, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t attempt to get as close as we can to truth, while also considering our uncertainty. It’s okay to have doubts. It is okay to practice the strategies taught in The Secret; just don’t put all your eggs in its basket.

It is okay to practice the law of attraction, and it’s also okay if it doesn’t work. Just stay positive. That’s the point. It’s okay to try and fail. It’s even okay to try and fail a thousand times. It has to be. The entire history of our evolution as a species is based upon trial and error, trying and failing, over and over again.

Like Oscar Wilde said, “The secret of life is to appreciate the pleasure of being terribly, terribly deceived.”

Reality itself could be just one big deception.

Seek not certainty, but absolute uncertainty, sacred uncertainty; the kind of uncertainty that is so uncertain that it becomes a joy to be in a constant state of perpetual surprise; where the Great Mystery is allowed to be exactly that: Great and a mystery, at the same time.

There is no need for answers that cannot be questioned. There is only ever a need for answers that must be questioned, otherwise we find ourselves clutching our baskets for dear life, living in perpetual fear that our eggs might fall out, or one of them break. I say, get it over with. Tip that basket over.

Shatter all your too-precious eggs; then burn the basket and dance in the warm glow of your fearlessness. Then proceed to question your way toward a heightened state of absolute uncertainty. The trick to hacking your way out of the jungle of proliferation is to use a question-mark machete as a tool toward inner and outer transformation.

Like Erich Fromm said, “The quest for certainty blocks the search for meaning. Uncertainty is the very condition to impel man to unfold his powers.”

So with the authority vested in me by the voices in my head, I give you all permission not to believe in anything. That’s right, nothing! Instead, understand things, take things into sacred consideration. It is quite simple to alter understandings and considerations, but it’s almost impossible to alter beliefs.

Rebel against the urge to pigeonhole the universe. Beware of all precious baskets or sacred idols. Use the art of self-interrogation to leverage self-insurgency against self-inertia. Dogmatism wanes, extremism is dampened, and you free yourself and the world for further exploration.

Now that the crutch of your certainty is gone, you must now learn to walk over and above where all crutches began: in the vile muck and blood stone of the mind. Flayed bare in the realm of absolute uncertainty, your shattered compass leaking out its magnetism, you are now forced to make your own path, with a question-mark in your heart and answers burning like kindling in your head.

But what a glorious place to be: at the threshold of a new adventure, uncertain thunderstorms on the horizon, tentative paths fanning out in infinite directions, ambiguous shores slapped by unreliable waves crashing all around you, the pain of the open road, the greater pain of an open mind, the even greater pain of an open heart, but my god you’re alive and it’s devastatingly beautiful.

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Voltaire quote

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Gary Z McGee
Gary Z McGee
Gary 'Z' McGee, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide awake view of the modern world.


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