The Virtue of Uncertainty
“There is nothing
either good or bad,
but thinking makes it so.”
– William Shakespeare
Article by LiveReal Agent Brad
Here at LiveReal, one of our pet peeves is folks throwing around words that have not been properly defined. Many people will throw around workds that have dozens of contradictory meanings, never bothering to define which one they mean, all the while assuming that everyone subscribes to their definition, whatever that is.
In that spirit, there’s one word we’d like to clarify.
When we describe something as “ambiguous,” what specifically do we mean?
To state it briefly: if something is “ambiguous,” it’s not completely “good” in and of itself . . . and it’s not “bad” in and of itself. But it has the potential for both . . . and essentially, it’s undefined.
Is money “good” . . . or is it “bad”?
After all, some schools of thought insist that money is “bad.” It’s the “root of all evil,” it’s earned only by oppressing and exploiting other people, it leads to corruption and obsession with things that don’t matter, and so on.
But some other camps insist the opposite: money is totally “good.” It puts clothes on our backs, food in our mouths, and much “evil” in the world is actually caused by a lack of money – poverty, crime, etc.
And often, these two camps are at war. Each side clearly sees the weaknesses of the other side, and uses those to justify their own position.
Of course, most folks – including us – align with neither extreme. . . . they see that both camps are right about some things, wrong about other things, and basically, it depends on how money is used.
In other words, money is neither good or bad . . . it’s ambiguous.
Same with“power.” Is it “good” or “bad”?
After all, some folks believe that “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Others believe that power enables us to accomplish great things in the world, and powerlessness leads to victimhood, abuse, and exploitation.
And in this as well, it seems that both camps are right in some ways – and wrong in thinking that they’re completely right and the other side is completely wrong. And it depends – it depends how the power is used. In other words, “power,” in itself, is “ambiguous.”
See how things start getting messy?
Is sex something that’s “good” or “bad”?
Some schools of thought insist that sex is completely “good.” After all, there’s how it feels . . . there’s the fact that it creates children, there’s the obvious truth that it’s the basic act of where we all came from.
But other schools of thought insist that sex is “bad.” After all, there’s rape, sexual abuse, std’s, abortions, and other aspects of sex that can definitely be seen as “bad.” Even with some more extreme spiritual ascetic schools of thought, sexuality is a force of “carnal lust” that binds us to the body, away from God.
Most folks, like us, believe that neither extreme is completely true, and both sides have some strong arguments to make. In other words, “sex” by itself is neither “good” or “bad,” but it depends on the context.
In other words, “sex” is ambiguous.
Same with “marriage.”
Some folks describe marriage as the basic, most important aspect of their lives and their happiness – in other words, marriage is “good.” For others, when marriage hasn’t gone so well, marriage has left them more abused, unhappy, poor, bitter, and just worse off than they were before – in other words, for them, marriage was “bad.”
Same with “dating.” It can either be a great, unrelentingly fabulous time that even leads to a wonderful marriage (another ambiguous situation) – or it can a little slice of pure hell. It’s ambiguous.
Same even with “spirituality.” For many folks, spirituality is a source of strength, happiness, and connectedness with something ultimately profound and meaningful that makes everything work. For others, it’s the root of fundamentalism, violence, radical extremism, irrational superstition and even outright insanity . . . and generally, it’s not a good thing.
And most folks think that . . . well, sometimes “spirituality” (or, always, real spirituality) is good, and sometimes “spirituality” (or things that happen under the name of spirituality) is no good. In other words, it depends. In other words, it’s “ambiguous.”
Or take “morality” – after all, it seems like if anything should be clear on what’s good or bad, right or wrong, it should be morality. But then again, “morality” for some folks simply means intelligent living . . . for others, it means an oppressive, finger-wagging, self-righteous judgementalism that is used to justify a lot of unnecessary suffering. And it seems to most folks that, well, both sides have their points. So in a way, even “morality” can be seen as ambiguous.
Even take something as simple as fire. Fire is something that can either cook some tasty, buttery flapjacks . . . or it can be something that can burn a sweet old lady’s house down. Even something as simple as fire, then, depends. Even fire is ambiguous.
It’s probably pretty apparent by now that discussing this type of thing can get pretty uncomfortable, pretty quickly, because it takes us into an Alice-in-Wonderland realm of uncertainty, vagueness, and areas where discussions can turn into unproductive games of semantics.
OK, So What?
So, aside from complicating things, why does this matter? Doesn’t this turn into an endless game of tail-chasing?
Here is why we think his can get pretty interesting:
First of all, defining certain things as “ambiguous” will end a lot of unnecessary battles. Lots of folks are constantly fighting about things, where one side insists that X (ambiguous thing) is ____, where the other side insists that X (the same ambiguous thing) is not _____. They both have good points, but each sees primarily the weakness in the argument of the other, and are blind to their own. So, accepting that a lot of things in the universe are ambiguous might help a lot of these unnecessary battles settle down.
Secondly, this line of thought – that a great deal of the universe is essentially ambiguous. – leads us into some more interesting territory – namely, realms that involve paradox, and dilemma, and duality, and the transcendence of duality, and things like that . . . and further, if everything is ambiguous . . . then that means that nothing, really, is “IT” . . . and so what, then, is “IT” “?
Finally, it becomes pretty fascinating that, say, marriage, as one example, can either be a doorway to happiness or a doorway to misery. Or, sex can lead to either extraordinary bliss or incredible pain. Or that spirituality, happiness, misery, or even fire can either lead to the highest summit of pleasure or the deepest pit of pain.
So then the question becomes . . . if marriage, or sex, or wealth, or power, or suffering, or anything – even life itself – is essentially undefined . . . what can I do to make it a doorway to heaven instead of a doorway to misery?
In other words . . . what can I do to make my marriage/sex/wealth/life and etc turn out the way I want it to, verses being surprised by them all going sour?
This, to us, seems to be a pretty exciting idea: if the universe is basically ambiguous, then depending on how we approach it, our experience can either be incredibly rich or incredibly bad.
So, if the Big Game is set up in this way . . . what can I do to turn things my way? In terms of marriage, sex, power . . . life?
And these are yet some other questions
that your loveable LiveReal Agents
are in hot pursuit of . . .
So stay tuned . . .