If You Know Who You Are, You Know What To Do

I recently encountered a small book by Margaret J. Wheatley titled “Perseverance”– something I will need in abundance as I reconfigure my work life after a pending layoff at the end of this month.  A few nights ago I dreamed I lived in a giant house that was slowly decaying around me.  So much upkeep to be done and all I wanted was to run away.  I woke up wrapped in shadows, imagining doors slamming shut as if shoved by an unseen wind while I stared into the dark, hoping the wind might ease a window open and let in some light.  When morning came, I reread a passage from Wheatley’s book called “Dwelling in Uncertainty.”  She writes:

“Some people despair about the darkening direction of the world today.  Others are excited by the possibilities for creativity and new ways of living they see emerging out of the darkness.

Rather than thinking one perspective is preferable to the other, let’s notice that both are somewhat dangerous.  Either position, optimism or pessimism, keeps us from fully engaging with the complexity of this time.  If we see only troubles, or only opportunities, in both cases we are blinded by our need for certainty, our need to know what’s going on, to figure things out so we can be useful.

Certainty is a very effective way of defending ourselves from the irresolvable nature of life.  If we’re certain, we don’t have to immerse ourselves in the strange and puzzling paradoxes that always characterize a time of upheaval:

  • the potential for new beginnings born from the loss of treasured pasts,
  • the grief of dreams dying with the exhilaration of what might now be,
  • the impotence and rage of failed ideals and the power of new aspirations,
  • the horrors inflicted on so many innocents that call us to greater compassion.

The challenge is to refuse to categorize ourselves.  We don’t have to take sides or define ourselves as either optimists or pessimists.  Much better to dwell in uncertainty, hold the paradoxes, live in the complexities and contradictions without needing them to resolve.  This is what uncertainty feels like and it’s a very healthy place to dwell.”

For more on Margaret J. Wheatley see: http://www.margaretwheatley.com



About HomenDunRoamin

Teaching Artist & Writer: fiction, poetry & nonfiction. Recently completed work: a hybrid memoir. In progress: a novel set in an unnamed Latin American country on the brink of war. The book examines violent and nonviolent resistance and the choices women are forced to make to survive.
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