This I Believe

Constance - Hudson, Illinois
Entered on May 8, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: question

I BELIEVE IN UNCERTAINTY because, from my perspective, belief requires uncertainty. How else can I believe except in the context of uncertainty? If I am certain of something, I know it, so I can’t believe it. I also believe in uncertainty in the sense that I treasure uncertainty, itself. Without certainty, how could I know wonder?

Now, I didn’t always believe in uncertainty. As a kid growing up in old St. Mary’s Irish-Catholic grade school, I was absolutely certain that anything “Sister said…” was the last word. Madonna Academy for girls furthered my collection of certainties. By the time I got to college, I, myself, was a “Sister.” With university studies, my horizon broadened and I began to wonder why my Western system of philosophy and spirituality didn’t allow for many Eastern insights.

In my greener years, I had assumed that wars inspired by creeds were confined to the pages of history. That illusion faded as I delved further into theology. One incident from that time remains burned into my memory. I can still see the lean and usually paper-pale face of our octogenarian professor furning livid all the way up to his sparse silver hair. Choking with rage, he verbally scoured a young priest who had dared to question an assertion of classical theology. For me, this memory is a freeze-frame of certainty at its worst:the hardened shell of certitude encasing an explosive force of conviction aimed to annihilate opposition. Like a human bomb, the professor exploded on the one who dared to question.

The darkness of the kind of certainty just described only serves to highlight the bright splendor I find in a more humane belief. For me, belief is more like a bird in flight than an image carved in marble. I want to hold my beliefs gently, like a dove. I believe in uncertainty because I do not want to cage the flight of my beliefs.

Belief, for me, is reserved for mystery, for what neither I, nor anyone, can properly name. I believe that the universe is meaningful, while I honor others who believe it is absurd. What I believe can’t cancel what someone else believes. How did Earth come to be? How do humans fit into the macrocosm of space? No person, no institution, can supply a definitive answer for me. After more than six decades, I have come to love, to trust, the mystery. My deepest rooting is in uncertainty, for nothing else is deep enough for my belief.