This I Believe

Douglas - Syracuse, New York
Entered on January 15, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: question
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This I Believe

I believe in doubt.

That sounds like a contradiction, and perhaps it is. But I’ve lived long enough to appreciate the truth that often lies hidden in the phrase, “Yes and no”. I distrust absolutes of any kind. Absolute concepts of right and wrong, good and evil, or true and false are seldom useful guides to the reality of human life. In my life, I’ve usually found more reality in the shadowy spaces between the absolutes.

I’m old enough to vividly remember the debates over Civil Rights, women’s rights, and the Vietnam War. Those were days of great passion, anger and conviction on both sides, and as voices rose and anger burned hotter, convictions became absolutes, and the real truth of these matters seemed to slip away and take refuge in the shadows. I knew where my own sympathies lay, but my doubts allowed me to recognize the costs and consequences of any course of action – even one that I supported.

We live in a society that has never been comfortable with doubt. Our culture values answers more than questions, and has little patience with complexity or ambiguity. But my years on this earth have taught me that doubts are more reliable than quick solutions: more often than not, the shortest distance between two points takes me nowhere.

Doubt does not prevent me from acting, but it helps me to anticipate all the possible outcomes. It doesn’t keep me from loving, but it helps me to love the person instead of the fantasy. It doesn’t stop me from believing, but it sharpens my ability to see.

In the ongoing journey of my life, my doubts have made better traveling companions than any of my beliefs. And of this, I have no doubt.