Embracing Radical Uncertainty
How to live passionately when we’re not sure how the story will end
Embracing Radical Uncertainty
By Even Dawn / upliftconnect.com

Environmental activist and buddhist scholar Joanna Macy, is an inspirational figure for many in the ecological movement. As part of the Deep Ecology tradition and throughout her Despair and Empowerment work, Joanna has voiced her vision of The Great Turning; which is the shift from the industrial growth society to a life-sustaining civilisation. Admitting that even though she talks ‘so convincingly’ about knowing the great turning is happening, at the same time she knows that we’re not sure how the story will end.’

‘I want so much to feel sure. I want to be able to tell people ‘don’t worry – it’s going to be ok’. And you know what? I realise that that wouldn’t be doing anyone a favour.’
– Joanna Macy

 

Dwelling in the dark

Novelist Anna Luke has also come to appreciate the importance of radical uncertainty. During her presentation at Breaking Convention in London, Anna shared her perspective on what makes it so difficult to say those three simple words ‘I don’t know’.

‘Darkness and uncertainty have been deeply undervalued by our patriarchal culture, which favours that which can be measured and seen.’
– Anna Luke

Being in the dark is generally seen as something to be avoided at all cost, especially in a professional context. Anna has identified that ‘instead of admitting we don’t know – we hedge, we bluff, we retreat behind our defences, we split. Or we feign certainty; we shout louder in the hope that nobody’s going to see the fear behind our eyes. Why all this need for certainty?’ This attitude towards uncertainty has significant cultural implications, and it seems that being able to ‘tolerate uncertainty might be an increasingly urgent social and environmental need.’

After an extended time working with plant medicines in Peru (and working through her childhood fear of the dark) Anna likens the experience of facing the unknown to that of a psychedelic experience:

‘It is a liminal zone, where the calcified ego, the logic of identity breaks down; and we can find something new in an intermediary space, where the straight lines of linear time are replaced by something much more interesting.’
 

Mind field
Where the logic of identity breaks down

 

Finding something new in the unknown

I myself am familiar with feeling on the brink of the unknown. Just as I feel myself letting go of my sense of certainty I turn to face the vast and humbling magnitude of my own ignorance.

In a recent fireside conversation with Michael Maso Ellis, a writer and therapeutic arts practitioner, he described the moment when the grip of certainty loosens its hold. ’That’s the point of fear, the point of crisis that the mind comes to where its like “I hope somebody knows!”… So we delegate authority to the experts out of this need for security.’ Rather than continually giving away this power to an external force Michael encourages individuals to cultivate their own relationship with the mystery through creative and contemplative practices.

I asked him what kinds of practices might be useful for developing a deeper relationship with the unknown. First and foremost a well-developed meditation practice, using a technique such as Vipassana is considerably beneficial. Meditation techniques which involves witnessing one’s thoughts, feelings and sensations without judgement assist us in dropping past the ‘story’ the mind keeps up about what is happening in any given moment.

Other ways of embracing, rather than fighting the unknown include creative improvisation practices such as dancing, free-styling, jamming, dynamic life drawing and stream of consciousness writing. Engaging in this process in a safely held space is another important aspect of an ‘art as medicine’ practice.

Tightrope

Living on the edge

Perhaps our ability to tolerate uncertainty comes from being able meet each opportunity of venturing into uncertainty as a mysterious source of creative fire and inspiration; as Joanna Macy described it ‘that knife-edge of uncertainty where we come alive to our truest power.’

Even in our reluctance to venture beyond what is familiar and known it is worth wondering, what is there that is ever truly certain?

‘To live with sufficient realism and dignity to know we are right with that knife-edge of uncertainty. We don’t know how it’s going to come out; there are no guarantees. Wait. There are no guarantees anyway.
– Joanna Macy

0.0 ·
0
What's Next
Trending Today
Rap News Special Edition: Hillary Clinton Vs Donald Trump
7 min · 17,207 views today · Hello world. RAP NEWS is back for a special episode on the 2016 USA Election mayhem, feat. Hillary Clinton vs Donald Trump + a touch of Jill Stein & Gary Johnson. This one's...
Ten Ways We Misunderstand Children
Jan Hunt · 11,505 views today · 1. We expect children to be able to do things before they are ready. We ask an infant to keep quiet. We ask a 2-year-old to sit still. We ask a 3-year-old to clean his room...
When You Kill Ten Million Africans You Aren't Called 'Hitler'
Liam O'Ceallaigh · 8,339 views today · Take a look at this picture. Do you know who it is? Most people haven’t heard of him. But you should have. When you see his face or hear his name you should get as sick in...
The Little Engine That Couldn't: How We're Preparing Ourselves and Our Children for Extinction
Daniel Quinn · 6,785 views today · In a recent semi-documentary film called Garbage, a toxic waste disposal engineer was asked how we can stop engulfing the world in our poisons. His answer was, "We'd have to...
Debt, Inequality and the Logic of Financial Violence
David Graeber · 4,688 views today · Five years after Occupy, organizer and anthropologist David Graeber speaks to ROAR about the power of finance, the history of inequality and the legacy of the movement.
Prince Ea Just Put The School System on Trial and Found it Guilty of Killing Free Thought
6 min · 4,179 views today · Albert Einstien once said "Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid". Today Prince...
The Culture of Maximum Harm
Daniel Quinn · 4,106 views today · People have lived many different ways on this planet, but about ten thousand years ago there appeared one people who believed everyone in the world should live a single...
The Left Deserves Better Than Jill Stein
Kate Aronoff · 2,317 views today · Stein’s Green Party run doesn’t offer a plan to win, or to build power. The Left is capable of so much more.
Incredible Photographs and Witness Statements from Charlotte and Baton Rouge Protests
Mankaprr Conteh · 2,154 views today · On September 20, a black father named Keith Lamont Scott was fatally shot by an officer of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. It is not clear if he was armed...
How You Can Support Standing Rock
Thane Maxwell · 1,778 views today · This is your pipeline battle too. Whatever you have to offer, we need it. Wherever you are, take one step deeper. Find your voice. Find your own front lines.
Yemen's Forgotten War and Famine Fuelled by Weapons from The West
3 min · 1,690 views today · The world has forgotten the war in Yemen but you'll remember these shocking images of its starving children.
This Satirical Trump Vs. Bernie Debate Is Both Hilarious and Highly Disturbing
44 min · 1,225 views today · Comedians James Adomian (Bernie Sanders) and Anthony Atamanuik (Donald Trump) bring two of the most controversial candidates in history, head-to-head, or rather bald-to-toupee...
Kids Killed by Guns: America's Daily Nightmare
3 min · 1,198 views today · On an average day in America, seven children and teenagers will be shot dead.Gary Younge tells the stories of the lives lost on one random day - 23 November 2013. Ten children...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 1,085 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Olympian John Carlos on the Power of Protest
3 min · 1,067 views today · 1968 Olympic athlete John Carlos protested racial inequality by raising his fist in a Black Power salute on the medal stand. He has some advice for athletes like Colin...
Schooling the World (2010)
66 min · 938 views today · If you wanted to change an ancient culture in a generation, how would you do it? You would change the way it educates its children. The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th...
18 Empowering Illustrations to Remind Everyone Who's Really in Charge of Women's Bodies
Julianne Ross · 917 views today · When Brazilian graphic designer Carol Rossetti began posting colorful illustrations of women and their stories to Facebook, she had no idea how popular they would...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 797 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
What It Really Means to Hold Space for Someone
Heather Plett · 676 views today · How to be there for the people who need you most
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 634 views today · Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
Embracing Radical Uncertainty