On certainty and uncertainty, and how to confront the chaos of the world
“If I never meet you
In this life
Let me feel the lack
A glance from your eyes
Then my life
Will be yours”
The idea of letting go has always been an important one for me. I think the idea resonates with me because I have a particularly hard time moving on after the end of something. I find that it is people and relationships that I especially want to hold on to, wishing that things could somehow magically be the same as they always were.
As sentient beings, though, we are painfully aware of the transitive nature of all things on this earth. The young, in time, become the old, and everything that lives must die. This isn’t pessimism, but the truth at the bottom of existence itself.
Meditating on death, some would say, is a morbid act. Many would rather leave death somewhere on the periphery of their thoughts, like a daydream that isn’t quite real. Of course, death isn’t real until all of a sudden it is staring you in the face. Death could take us at any moment — on our daily commute to work, in the checkout line at the supermarket, or as we sleep in our beds and dream about tomorrow.
Because everything on this earth is bound to change, transform, and eventually pass away, letting go becomes a compulsory act for us as human beings. We don’t just need to let go — we have to. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. We accept life for what is just by the act of waking up in the morning.
When we don’t accept change and stubbornly hang on to life, we become depressed, withdrawn, and angry, losing track of the point of existence itself.
I’ve already written one article about letting go called Why It’s Hard To Go. I continue to write about it because it is an important subject for me. I even titled one of my past albums “The Moving On,” as I was trying to soundtrack just what it feels like to move on from past events and embrace an uncertain future.
Letting Go Is Embracing Uncertainty
I believe that we refuse to let go primarily because we don’t want to face the uncertainty of the future. We do this even when we know that every moment of our lives is uncertain to some degree. No one, no matter how wise or powerful, can predict future events and say for certain what will come to pass.
Letting go is hard when we’ve found a respite from uncertainty. It is likely that whatever situation, person, or life event we can’t get over probably made us feel a degree of certainty. This certainty felt comfortable and alluring in the face of the uncertain future we all face everyday.
So when we can’t let go, we are probably clinging to certainty. We make relationships “official” because they lend us a degree of certainty. Marriage is a form of socially and legally recognized certainty that people buy into. You could list so many things that are part of life — insurance, contracts, agreements — that are ways of guaranteeing a degree of certainty in an uncertain world.
Making Order Out of Chaos
To fully embrace our lives, we have to come face to face to with the chaotic swirl of events that is the world we live in. As humans, part of what we do is literally create order from this chaos. Our aim is to manufacture as much certainty as we can for ourselves and those we love.
We even sell certainty to each other. We make promises, sign contracts, and agree to show up to work everyday.
There is a time, though, when this certainty has to end. What we do in the face of uncertainty is when we find out what we’re truly made of.
To fight the chaos of the world, we have to continually confront the void that stretches out before us. If we cling to old situations and refuse to let go of the past, we are only making ourselves vulnerable to the uncertainty of the future.
To do this, we have to metaphorically release the past and create a new certainty in the future.
Embracing Uncertainty Lets Us Create Our Future
We can’t create our new future until we let go of our old certainties.
This is the hard part of life. No one likes to have to let go of something we relied on in the past. When we’ve had a trusting relationship or a pleasant work situation, it can be so difficult to truly let that go and look into a cloudy future, one where have no idea what will happen.
Until we fully embrace this uncertainty, we are holding ourselves back. We don’t realize how much time and energy we are sinking into the past until we look at what our ourselves in the present moment. If we are invested in the idea of a certain past, we aren’t putting the time into building a new future for ourselves.
In the end, this is going to leave us even more helpless when that future eventually comes.
Let Go Because You Have To
Letting go is your only choice. When you look around and see life for what it is, you see a world that is constantly changing. You see that everything is in a state of constant flux, and that nothing is certain.
I say this to you because I have the hardest time letting go, and have seen what harm this has done to my life. I’ve realized what feeds my clinging to the past — it’s a fantasy of certainty, one where all my needs are met and I no longer have to fight for my own future.
Though this fantasy is nice to think about, it’s not the world we live in.
If, then, we cannot live happily without an assured future, we are certainly not adapted to living in a finite world where, despite the best plans, accidents will happen, and where death comes at the end.
To live as fully realized adults in this finite world, we have to leave the childhood world of security behind and embrace a world that is uncertain and chaotic.
Any experience on this earth is momentary and fleeting. Understanding and digesting that fact is scary and slightly unnerving, but when we accept it and still choose to live intentionally, we are choosing a life that is true to reality.
Strength is facing uncertainty, death, and suffering, and still choosing to live. Avoiding uncertainty only leads to dead ends and false promises, because it is not in line with the world as it is.
You and I can let go of uncertainty, and see with clear eyes into the darkness that stretches out in front of us. It is this simple act that will free us to live our best lives.