There was an opinion piece that appeared in the New York Times at the start of February of last year, 2014. I printed it out. Put it with a stack of important papers. I pulled the article out today. Pulled the whole stack out, in fact. The stack is actually meant to be turned into an important something-else, but I have only a pen instead of a pick axe, and fear is a thing.
Last night Julie and I sat in my favorite bar on the lower east side. Their margaritas are strong and their guacamole good. We talked about work and stumbling blocks and cute guys and then we spoke of religion. Julie married a man who was raised in the Catholic faith. I was raised in the Catholic faith. I spoke to her about why it is important to me. I spoke to her about the mystery of it. That I believe it is not meant to be known, so much as felt, and that to try to understand it is to miss the point. I spoke about my appreciation for original sin--how I believe it is an invitation to turn towards our own humanity, our own limitedness.
The opinion piece is an incredible essay written by one Simon Critchley about a a BBC documentary hosted in the 70's by Dr. Jacob Bronowski--a mathematician who devoted his life to science and literature.
"For Dr. Bronwoski...all scientific information is imperfect and we have to treat it with humility. Such for him, was the human condition."
Now bear with me as I pick and pull much of the remaining essay:
"Dr Bronowski insisted that [Max Born's] principle of uncertainty was a misnomer, because it gives the impression that in science (and outside of it) we are always uncertain. But that is wrong. Knowledge is precise, but that precision is confined within a certain toleration of uncertainty...Dr. Bronowski thought that the uncertainty principle should therefore be called the principle of tolerance.
Pursuing knowledge means accepting uncertainty...In the everyday world, we do not just accept a lack of ultimate exactitude with a melancholic shrug, but we constantly employ such inexactitudes in our relations with other people. Our relations with others also require a principle of tolerance. We encounter other people across a gray area of negotiation and approximation. Such is the business of listening...
As [Dr. Bronowski] put it, 'Human knowledge is personal and responsible, an unending adventure on the edge of uncertainty.'
The relations between humans and nature and humans and other humans can take place only within a certain play of tolerance.
If the human condition is defined by limitedness, then this is a glorious fact because it is a moral limitedness rooted in a faith in the power of the imagination, our sense of responsibility and our acceptance of our fallibility. We always have to acknowledge that we might be mistaken."
An unending adventure on the edge of uncertainty.
This human life, this corporal existence is an unending adventure, and our own limits--our very failings--are an invitation for us to imagine and to play--to show up. To accept to the risk of living vulnerably is to accept risk. Full stop.
And to be human is to forgive. To forgive ourselves our own fallibility and to forgive those around us their failings. And to play. To try again. To make mistakes. To turn towards what is hard and painful and incredibly uncomfortable and remain open to the fact that their might be some beauty along that edge--adventure, even.
That's the thing about other people. There is no certainty. And because we are human, and made of flesh and bones, we are breakable. And because we approach others across the gray area of negotiation and approximation we risk--we open ourselves up to confusion and frustration and possible heartache. But that's also where the good lives.
And so the risk is...well, the risk is everything. Because to pursue life is to pursue uncertainty.