Uncertainty Is the Only Certainty

I started yesterday by seeing a quote online:

Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security. –John Allan Paulos

I thought Paulos’s words were interesting in light of the way I’d like to live after my present responsibilities end. Since I can’t bear the thought of settling anywhere, I am planning to live on the go, at least for a while, and see where serendipity and spontaneity take me. The uncertainty and insecurity of such a life style makes me a bit nervous, but I’d come to the same conclusion that John Allan Paulos did — that there is no certainty, and learning how to live with insecurity is the only security you can ever truly have.

Later, I read Malcolm R. Campbell’s blog Everything That Can Happen, Does Happen where he quoted Jane Roberts “The soul can be described for that matter, as a multidimensional, infinite act, each minute probability being brought somewhere into actuality and existence; an infinite creative act that creates for itself infinite dimensions in which fulfillment is possible.” – “Seth Speaks” (1972)

I read thUncertaintye Seth books once upon a time, but lost interest in Seth’s words when I realized that most of what he supposedly said had already touted in quantum physics, such as humans existing as possibility and electronic waves, which meant that his pronouncements could have come from Jane Roberts herself rather than from an all-knowing entity. (I also was disturbed by the assertion that Hitler was in a deep sleep for a thousand years. If time doesn’t exist outside of our material universe, then what difference does it make how long he was put to sleep?)

Although this might not seem to have anything to do with uncertainty, the idea that humans exist as possibilities, as an act rather than a physical being, is a variation of quantum mechanic’s uncertainty principle, which as far as I can tell says that everything exists in a state of infinite possibilities until it is observed or otherwise interacted with by another quantum object. (Actually, it says that either momentum or position of a particle can be precisely measured, but not both, and that the very act of measuring disturbs the measurement.)

And then, last night, quite coincidentally, I watched the 1994 movie IQ — just picked it blindly from a collection of movies. And there again, the uncertainty principle raised its head and took a long hard stare at me when Einstein and his cronies discussed the nature of the universe.

What does this mean? Probably nothing, though it does seem to show that uncertainty is the only certainty.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

13 Responses to “Uncertainty Is the Only Certainty”

  1. rami ungar the writer Says:

    Interesting coincidences, Pat. But Paulos is right: we do have to live with a certain measure of uncertainty at all times, and learning to cope with insecurity allows us a measure of security (if we don’t have that we might get anxiety disorders). Perhaps you’re getting messages from the universe telling you not to worry.

  2. knightofswords Says:

    Some folks are comfortable when things are static. I guess “static” is an illusion. So is certainty, yet quantum entanglements are forever leading us into new thoughts and worlds.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      My life seems to go through long periods of stasis, then short but traumatic bursts of vast changes, then back to stasis again. But my thoughts are always changing, so that’s good. Maybe, as you say, someday they will lead me to new worlds.

  3. ROD MARSDEN Says:

    Looking at the whole scope of uncertainty, I remember that conditions had to be just right for our sort of life to evolve here on planet earth.

    You through the northern lights and my people through the southern lights get a glimpse at just how fragile existence here really is. Where the ozone layer protecting us is the weakest, we get these fireworks in the sky. The sun as it is gives us life but radiation from the sun can also be lethal. It’s a great balancing act. The uncertainty here is that through pollution we might shift the balance one day and get it wrong.

    When you look at the notion of multdimensions or multiuniverses you gather that somewhere in time and space humans have already got a lot of stuff wrong including the ozone layer and greenhouse and no longer have a planet that will sustain their lives for very long. Also somewhere on another earth religious nut-bags have all been locked up ages ago and something has already been done about our population problem.

    Can you imagine an earth where the Taliban don’t exist and everyone everywhere is entitled to an education? No young women wanting to better themselves get shot for theier trouble? Just a thought.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I’m not far north enough to see the northern lights. Maybe someday . . .

      As for the rest, maybe that will happen someday, too.

      • ROD MARSDEN Says:

        You never know. Maybe the northern lights will come to you. After an American Civil War battle the northern lights were actually seen that night way south of where they are normally seen.

  4. leesis Says:

    Uncertainty is difficult because our knowledge is limited. Yet, if we allow it, our knowledge expands, evolves and hence we can become more comfortable with uncertainty. I think it’s like suffering. The more we learn/understand the less we suffer. And a word to Rod…the opposite reality may also exist…whereby we have allowed our theologies to evolve, where we have got a lot of things right. But (with all respect) I don’t think we will get it here until we stop labelling people as “religious nutbags” etc and understand that people are simply seeking certainty in what is for many a very scary world

    • ROD MARSDEN Says:

      Sometimes labels do fit, leesi. To me a religious nutbag is someone who boards a bus full of children and blows themselves up in the name of some mythical being. It is also a label I gladly put onto those two creeps that killed people in Boston recently. Also anyone who would stop a girl child from getting a decent education because of some mythical being is crazy and therefore a religious nutbag.
      Some religious person who prays for peace and does his or her best to promote a peaceful world, on the other hand, doesn’t fit this label. The answer to our world population problems may well be getting everyone a good education so they know the score. The more minds working on the problem the better, Religious nutbags are ignorant sods and just get in the way when they are not trying to kill people trying to better themsaelves.

      • leesis Says:

        I wish it were that simple

        • ROD MARSDEN Says:

          It is.There are those who wish to limit goodwill through destruction and those who seek a better world for all of us and are willing to fight for it. Sure, religious nutcases tend to come from and are created in the poorer countries and it can be a catch twenty-two situation. The poorer countries may remain poor because of the religious nutcases poverty and ignorance unfortunately create.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Leesis, I think you’re right about uncertainty being like suffering. The idea of purposely living an uncertain life scares me at times, yet I think in the uncertainty I will find much of what I am looking for.

      • leesis Says:

        hey Pat. Yeah…I’ve been thinking about this since you first wrote this post (and I thank you for that because for me, nothing is better than a thought worth following). My reply initially was so long I’ve decided to turn it in to a post on my blog. I think that uncertainty causes suffering but not because it is a natural consequence but because we are trained from childhood to feel this way. Yes uncertainty as a philosophy of living is scary and yet it is the most ‘real’ way to live so it’s worth pondering…hence a coming post 

  5. Elmore Says:

    Uncertainty is the only certainty is the same as saying that the only certainty is that nothing is certain. But if nothing can be certain then there can be no certainty that nothing is certain. It’s a paradox.

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