THE RIGHT QUESTIONS, PART IV. . .

To refuse to examine the assumptions we live by is immoral. –R.K. Greenleaf

Good morning, Gentle Reader. In his essay, ‘The Ethic of Strength,’ Greenleaf continues with his questions; this morning, Gentle Reader, I will briefly offer us another of what I call Greenleaf’s ‘Right Questions.’

 Am I prepared to accept that I will never have the comfort of being ‘ideologically’ right?

 This is a tough question for the brittle, the fearful, the dogmatic, the ‘allness’ people. To such persons, the persistent asking of this question – reflectively and in the quiet hours – may be devastating. But it may be the only way that the sense of responsibility can be opened.

 The rightness of my aim will not be justified by conclusive evidence, airtight reasoning, or immutable law. It will have its own validation.

 Whenever a person says to himself or herself, ‘Now I fully understand this,’ or ‘This is the final or complete truth,’ the chances are that he or she has blocked the possibility for further growth in knowledge or insight in that area. In fact, by taking these positions in only a small area of knowledge, one may limit one’s capacity for comprehension in general.

 It is probably equally limiting to pursue the absolute since it is unattainable. Human growth in understanding is not a movement toward certainty; it is best described by words like ‘perspective, enlargement, insight.’ One comprehends, one feels a part of knowledge, one becomes mobile in one’s feeling and ventures with greater assurance. But there is no certainty. And in the world of practical affairs, this constitutes an aspect of stress. Stress can only be balanced by serenity, which has its roots in the vagueness and tentativeness of all with which we work. 

 Once again, Greenleaf reminds us that ‘awareness’ does not bring comfort; more often it brings disturbance.  However, awareness and disturbance alone are not enough; we also need to be open to our ‘sense of responsibility’ and response-ability.  He also reminds us of a trap: ‘I now fully understand’ or ‘I now have the truth.’ These conclusions hinder us from further exploration, potential growth and development. He also notes that even if we are blocked in a ‘small area’ that this blocking might well hinder us when it comes to the big issues; this is an idea that I too often forget about (or is it ‘deny’).

‘There is no certainty.’ I imagine others, those who are ‘sure about. . .,’ being taken aback by this statement. If I am going to continue to search, seek, explore, question, and learn then it is crucial for me to be rooted more in ‘doubt’ and less in ‘surety.’ I have deep beliefs. I get into trouble when I forget that these are ‘beliefs’ and not ‘sureties.’ I want my beliefs to be confirmed AND I strive to be open to them being disconfirmed (on my good days anyway). When I move to ‘I am sure’ and I closet ‘doubt’ then I quickly experience that I move from being flexible to being rigid; I move from being open to being closed; I move from exploring to defending. I move from being compassionate to being judgmental. Perhaps most importantly, I move from being ‘trusting’ to being ‘cynical.’

Doubt is what gets you an education. –Arthur Mizener

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