This I Believe

Brett - New York, New York
Entered on May 15, 2007

I believe that we don’t know. There are those age-old questions: Who are we? Why are we here? What is the meaning of life? How did the universe begin? And so on. These questions are cliches. But still, here and now in the year 2007, with all of our technology, our intelligence, our sophistication, our knowledge of history, still we have no clue what the answers are.

Oh, there are answers out there. Theories, really. Religion offers one story, science another. Maybe art chimes in. There are multitudes preaching from every side, and even many that combine opposing views into one. Something like folk-wisdom or “common knowledge” offers altogether different solutions. Capitalism, Communism, Extremism, Liberalism…every “ism” has its particular take on how life works and how we got to be who we are now.

Some of us feel totally certain about the answers to the big questions. But there is no consensus. Not to mention that a consensus doesn’t have to be correct anyway. Over time, consensus on fundamental beliefs has been completely overturned. Today, even if some are sure of the answers, their sheer range means that WE – the largest WE – are unsure.

It sounds hopeless, maybe cynical. But for me, it’s not at all. Picture small children playing outdoors, exploring the world around them, making sense of the seemingly inexplicable phenomenon in which they are immersed. Would anyone say that their ignorance is hopeless? Of course not. Just the opposite – their search for meaning is one of our most preciously guarded treasures.

I don’t believe in nothing. That would be as depressing as it is useless. But believing that we don’t know, admitting that when it comes down to it we really don’t have the foggiest clue, now that’s exciting. It allows us to develop and challenge the prevailing knowledge – whether it’s scientific, religious, academic, whatever – in a more honest way. Maybe we’ll never get to know the answers for absolutely certain, but it seems absolutely worthwhile to try and to enjoy the process of trying.