Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The certainty of failure.

“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”⎯Alan Watts

Our vision is limited. We tend to only see clearly what lies within our immediate sphere, without consideration of how we got here, or where our footsteps are leading. Our presumption is that there is a straight path from the past to our present. To make matters worse we then enshrine our words and actions into hard and fast rules, forgetting that how we got to where we are was 100% unpredictable. We do love our predictabilities!

Some years hence Nassim Nicholas Taleb wrote a New York Times best seller called The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. According to Taleb few if any of the major human tides were, or could have been, predicted. He was, and is, of course correct. And one of the key reasons for his accuracy is uncertainty. Just as very few swans are black (most are white), very few tides happen as we predict, simply because of the constancy variable (e.g., the uncertainty factor) is change⎯the only thing that is certain and nobody can predict the precise nature of change.

This may seem like a huge problem to our collective wellbeing since many of the most significant tides appear as dangerous and we grasp for straws trying to meet creeping challenges by crafting fixed, and more times than not costly, solutions. While this admonition may look global in nature the truth is it becomes large through small individual collective consciousness. A person who applies wooden yardsticks to evolving change is sure to miss the mark. On an individual basis such behavior is known as clinging to dogmaThe epitome of inappropriate conduct.

As Voltaire indicated, while doubt is an unpleasant state of mind, the presumption of certainty is absurd. One of the essential differences between Buddhism (which is based on the certainty of change) and other religious institutions concerns this matter of uncertainty, and what to do about it. Since change is certain, The Buddha promoted upaya which translates as “expedient means.” There are no fixed solutions that always work and to continue down the road of life based on the expectation of certainty is a fools errand.
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