Posted by: Philip Carr-Gomm | December 9, 2008

Enhancing our Relationship with the World

When it comes to the everyday task of living in a world of stress and worry, if you can embrace uncertainty – allowing yourself not to know what’s going to happen to humanity and the world – you not only free yourself of anxiety, but also open yourself to the possibility of the inspiration and enthusiasm which would be denied to you if you had created ‘closure’ in your mind by believing in a certain outcome. The emotional equivalent of embracing uncertainty, surrendering to it, is the movement from fear to trust.

The bottom line is that we cannot be certain about what is going to happen, and trying to guess or predict this may be intellectually interesting, but at a practical level can lead to the problem of provisional living and a ‘confusion of levels’ whereby you pin your hopes on securing a material future, rather than on obtaining the really valuable things in life: happiness, clarity, wisdom and love.

I’ll never forget a story told to me years ago by a friend who knew someone who spent his entire working life dreaming of his retirement. With great effort he saved enough money to buy a villa in Spain. On the day he retired he flew out there to fulfil his dreams. He got drunk with friends in celebration, and for a moment he forgot that the swimming pool had not yet been filled with water. He dived in and was killed instantly.

There is a danger in the current situation that we obsess about the future and seek out certainty in people or ideologies that profess to know what will happen. The way to enhance a personal relationship is simply to be fully present to it, and not to be concerned about the ‘future of the relationship’. Perhaps this applies to our relationship with the world too.


Responses

  1. Two things are certain in your life : you were born and you will die. And even those “facts” are of a strange kind ; you usually can’t remember anything from when you were born and you usually don’t know anything about how you will die. So you live and laugh and cry, here and now; or you fight what is happening to you; but I wonder : do we really have a choice?

  2. Your comment Hennie makes me think of a quote from Joseph Campbell: “Life is like arriving late for a movie, having to figure out what was going on without bothering everybody with a lot of questions, and then being unexpectedly called away before you find out how it ends” !

  3. In an era of desperation that we have now entered, everyone is trying to predict THE end. This seems to have two effects. 1 – the scrambling to undo all of the damage that has been done in (primarily) the last 100 years in a matter of 10 years and 2- Giving up hope entirely that we can make any kind of difference. Continuing to embrace the Sacred and maintaining some sort of sanity in the midst of this can be difficult. Large parts of me simply want to tune out for the sake of maintaining that which I cherish in ignorance if that is what it must be. Ignorance, for me, might be bliss.

  4. I agree that the future is not certain and putting too much stock in it detracts from the value of the present.
    But I still care about the future. I care about what sort of world my (potential) children will inhabit and how to prepare them for that (and myself), I care that the future of humanity may include a world of fantastic potential or a premature exitinction.
    I have my vision of the future (and of the past), where I’d like to be (and where I have come from), and though I don’t make any concrete plans for what will happen and how, I do intuitively feel myself along my path, fully in the present, using my vision as a compass to orientate myself with.
    The compass (orientation between past and future) gives me my general direction, but the landscape (of the present) does not always flow with the orientation, so doubling back and finding alternative routes are a common occurence. No matter where I am in the present, I stay true (as much as humanly possible) to my orientation.

  5. I think its important not to get immobilised by the thought of what the future might bring. When all the known signposts start disappearing, we each have to stay open to the moment, tuned in to the grief and the joy of things, that we are able to make good decisions about what the possible direction might be. This is all our moment; we have all been born at this point; it is the life that we all must live. We have to engage with it – all the hurt, fear but also all the potential good of it too. It can be frightening and depressing, which is why having a good spiritual support system is so important – it’s a solid foundation that can help each of us stand when actually we might feel a bit like crumbling under.

    Embracing uncertainty, for me, is about being alive to life – the flow of life is about constant change and we each stand in its current. Sometimes the movement of it is felt within us as very stressful, normally because we resist and fear where it will take us. Frankly, sometimes I just want some peace and quiet (now is one of those times!), but over the last few years, circumstances have taught me that when ‘stuff’ is happening you have two choices: go with it and experience what is needed, or, resist it and experience it anyway but with more pain. Major life stuff – and I think this is happening collectively at present – has to be dealt with. None of us can avoid this and so we need to find ways which can help us to engage with it positively while maintaining our well-being, hope and clarity as much as possible. I really like Treegod’s explaining of it as an ‘orientation’ – it suggests knowing where you are in your own personal landscape, even if the outer one feels temporarily alien or unsettling.

    I think we are here to support each other too -we are not alone in this. I think its important to retain a sense of compassion for ourselves. It can be so easy to get angry at humanity for making such a mess, but we all live with our blind spots, the bits we just can’t see about ourselves. These make living quite hard and so mistakes get made, folks behave badly…Basically, I think we have great potential for good, for healing. It’s time to dig deep and find these things within us.

  6. Thank you for these comments Hennie, Pom, Treegod and Maria -all so insightful and well expressed. These are testing times but times when we can really learn so much from each other.

  7. Thank You for this post full of soul-food! These thoughts are important to ponder. Gods know we need some way to be more at peace with the world and our situation, without going into ignorance or apathy.

    I believe that when we (somehow) find peace with the uncertainty of reality, we are able to be more present, and are stronger and therefore more able to help create a better situation.

    Running stories in our minds of how ‘things should be’ causes much frustration when ‘things’ aren’t that way! Accepting the uncertainty of ‘things’ is not the same as thinking anything is ‘ok’, it is a way of coming to terms with what acutally is, and from there we can find strength and inspiration.

  8. Yes! Thanks Neina, there definately IS a difference between accepting and being ok. I accept that humanity is where it is (I don’t delude myself otherwise), but I’m not ok with that. Not being ok is what drives me to improve what I can. As I always say “bad s*** makes good fertiliser!”

  9. […] down to earth next, how many of us have thought about our ongoing relationship with the world? Thanks for reminding us, […]


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