Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Certainty versus Authenticity

I, like others, want to be certain of everything: certain that what I believe in is correct, certain that I can prove what I stake my life on, certain that I am doing the correct thing with my life; the list goes on. But what I have come to realize over the past year or so (not by my own discovery, but rather through the wisdom of others) is that what is important is not the level of certainty I have in what I do, who I am, or what I believe in, but rather the level of authenticity I live the life I have chosen freely.

Not to get too philosophic, Nietzschean, or simply depressing, but we cannot be certain of too much in this life. [I understand I am using the word “certain” in a pretty specific sort of way.] We can take our “wrecking ball of doubt” like Descartes (thanks, Floyd) to everything. We can stand in the wake of the wreckage and feel a sense of emptiness; or we can realize that this certainty we were searching for was never supposed to be there. Its absence is only depressing insofar as we assumed it was present. Aware of this, we can assume the responsibility of living our lives authentically – authentically attached to the way of life we have freely chosen.

To use a simple example, imagine a man who is working administration at a small trucking company. He could constantly ask himself whether or not he is in the right profession, whether or not he was created to be doing something else. It is not as if he is not good at his job, but this man is a questioner. Despite this man’s ponderings, he can never be certain that this job of his is the best use of his abilities. He has two choices: seek different employment and test himself, or, be fine with his uncertainty and work at his present job authentically – working to the best of his ability.

I need often to stop myself from desiring certainty. I need to be more concerned with living my life authentically. PS: Sometimes I nostalgically think that the searching and concerned atheist or agnostic is somehow more honest than a doubting Christian. However, this is not true. This atheist or agnostic is AS certain of his tenants of life as the doubting Christian. If we are beginning with the premise that nothing can be known certainly [back to my earlier use of “certain”], perhaps the only difference between the concerned atheist and the doubting Christian is the level of authenticity with which they live their respective lives.

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