I have lived secluded for many years now. Not that I have no contact with the world, but I keep my distance. I look at it and analyze what I see through a filter of philosophy and poetry. I also get older, and the advantage of youth is slipping away, wherein you see all the grownups as living in a different world. Authority impresses when you’re young, but now that I am 50, I have little illusion left that someone knows what they are doing. Sure, most people think they know what they are doing, but self-reflection is a sparsely dealt out gift.
I see all these world leaders and bosses being confident and proclaiming what has to happen. Some rally the sheep, and others threaten nuclear destruction out of a delusional belief in themselves. Thousands of leaders have a direction formed in their minds that they follow, and none of these thousands of direction point in the same direction. For me, an outsider, this seems strange. Don’t they see that you can’t defend your direction in the light of all those other ones? They can not all be true, and why would yours be?
I understand that living with some kind of “truth” in yourself makes life easier. Doubting is nerve-wracking and keeps you on your toes, but one of my adopted truths is that the period between birth and death is not to be used to feel calm and at ease or pick a side. I don’t have the obsession to find and keep some kind of peace in myself and a side… sides are for people who need company. For me, living still means growing or shrinking but, in any way, moving.
The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt. Bertrand Russell
You are never dedicated to something you have complete confidence in. No one is fanatically shouting that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. They know it’s going to rise tomorrow. When people are fanatically dedicated to political or religious faiths or any other kinds of dogmas or goals, it’s always because these dogmas or goals are in doubt. Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
And your doubt can become a good quality if you train it. It must become knowing, it must become criticism. Ask it, whenever it wants to spoil something for you, why something is ugly, demand proofs from it, test it, and you will find it perhaps bewildered and embarrassed, perhaps also protesting. But don’t give in, insist on arguments, and act in this way, attentive and persistent, every single time, and the day will come when, instead of being a destroyer, it will become one of your best workers–perhaps the most intelligent of all the ones that are building your life. Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
If you tried to doubt everything you would not get as far as doubting anything. The game of doubting itself presupposes certainty. Ludwig Wittgenstein, On Certainty
The desire for a strong faith is not the proof of a strong faith, rather the opposite. If one has it one may permit oneself the beautiful luxury of skepticism: one is secure enough, fixed enough for it. Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols