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Living with Uncertainty

August 31, 2020

Living in the COVID era

I am not a physicist. In fact, I am about as skilled in physics as I would be to pluck a porcupine. Physics, involves, science, matter and nature. To understand physics is to understand the laws of time, space, energy, and degree of force. None of which is within my realm of expertise. But, how physics relates to everyday life interests me most as I ponder so many unknowns in these uncertain times. You see, I wonder how we can trust in that which we can see nor understand. For instance—the future.

It’s easy to think about the worst to come and yet it’s tough to think about the best ahead. But, with either perspective there will be a margin of error of uncertainty no matter how well thought out we think our view of the future is.

Thanks to people like those well-known such as Einstein who gave us the law of gravity, Newton, the laws of motion, and the likes of Adam Riess for his research on the supervoae revealing that the universe is expanding that I have come to appreciate both the complexity and mystery of uncertainty in that which I know nothing. In this case, I am reminded of the notion of the “Uncertainty Principle,” especially in these trying times.

In 1927 Werner Heisenberg developed the Uncertainty Principle, also known as the Heinsberg Principle. Although his theory is in the realm of Quantum Mechanics, the principle he purports transcends the boundary of time, space and circumstance. In Quantum mechanics, his theory implies that we cannot ever know the exact position or exact speed of an object—in part because we interact with it.

In practical terms, the principle essentially states that you can never be sure of everything. In other words, there will always be some things that you can never be sure of. No matter what you may think you know, there is always some margin of error. And so, those moments when we contemplate on the uncertainty of the future, fueled by fears marked by a state of anxiety, it is in those very moments that we need to remember that no matter what we believe, what we think or how we feel, we cannot for certain predict an accurate anticipatory outcome.

This means that although we can’t change how we feel, we can change how we think. And that’s empowering.

Next time, you feel riddled with anxiety about the future, stop, take time to recognize that at that moment you have a choice. Choose to live in today rather than the future. We cannot foresee the future any more than we can predict it. The only certainty is that tomorrow will come, but the reality is that our tomorrows are today. Instead of living in the future, live in the day because there is always a margin of error in what we think could, would, should or might happen tomorrow. In so doing, we gain insight and power in that which we can do, instead of feeding the uncertainty of what we cannot do or know. And that in and if itself-- is a degree of certainty. That then can be an ounce of hope that we all need.


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