What Do You Predict?

 The more I learn, the more I learn how little I know. — Socrates                                              The more you know, the less you understand. — Lao-Tse

 The future doesn’t exist, so the future of uncertainty doesn’t exist. No one knows what it will be. To me it seems likely that uncertainty will continue, probably increase. The future world is expected to bring more complexity, which brings more uncertainty and more unknown. So what does this mean? The unknown future of uncertainty means we have to develop ways of dealing with this uncertainty and the unknown, and even become comfortable with what we don’t understand.

In an increasingly complex, unpredictable world, what matters most isn’t I Q, willpower, or confidence in what we know. It’s how we deal with what we don’t understand.            Jamie Holmes in Nonsense, 2015

I have written a lot about what we don’t know and don’t understand; so have many others. Abraham Maslow once said: We have a need to know and a fear of knowing. He was speaking about self-knowledge, knowing oneself. However, when it comes to other knowledge, it seems we have a need to know and a fear of not knowing, which leads to a strong desire for certainty. This will not serve us well in our complex, unpredictable future world. Here is brief sampling of what some others have been saying about uncertainty:

We live in a complex world; we often don’t know what’s going on; and we won’t be able to understand its complexity unless we spend more time not knowing. Margaret Wheatley

The truth is that we cannot avoid uncertainty. This not-knowing is part of the adventure. It is also what makes us afraid.  Pena Chodron

Man’s natural state is not doubt, but credulity — a combination of suggestibility in the face of whatever is clearly and strongly presented, and the will-to-believe whatever is personally and socially congenial.  Harold Larrabee in Reliable Knowledge,1945

Ralph W. Sockman has called what we know “An island of knowledge”. The larger the island of knowledge, the longer the shoreline of wonder.  Wonder: one that arouses awe, astonishment, surprise, or admiration; a marvel, (Dictionary).

A future strategy for living in this increasingly complex, unpredictable, uncertain future world may be to see it with wonder, awe, and admiration. If the future were certain, there would be no need for future strategies; there would be nothing we could do about it. So, feel positive about the uncertainty, and believe you have a role in creating our future.

Life is not a puzzle to be solved but a mystery to be lived. Thomas Merton


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Doubt May Be The Best Sensor

The surest way to lose the truth is to pretend that you already possess it. Gordon Allport

Today it is hard (often impossible) to know for certain what is true. Although that has probably always been true, it was less true in the distant past. To the medieval mind the possibility of doubt did not exist. William Manchester. Actually I have been promoting the benefit of doubt for many years, but it doesn’t seem to be catching on.

I think most people would agree that truth has become a major political issue. Headlines are saying: “We Live in a Post Truth World”. Post-truth was the Oxford Dictionaries website’s 2016 word of the year. It defined post-truth as relating or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief. In this blog I am suggesting that the technique of political doubting may be a modern day truth detector test, a way of sensing “alternative facts” and falsehoods. Can you imagine a politician saying: “I don’t know?” Or even “I’m not sure?”  Can you imagine President Trump having any doubts?

It seems that even if a politician doesn’t know or isn’t sure he/she can’t say so. Of course this has always been true; but what makes the need for a political truth detector now so urgent is that our current president’s “Trump’s Truths” are making history. If other politicians follow Trump’s successful methods, we would have an impaired government and a lack of public trust. How bad could this be?  Gleb Tsipursky predicts: * Without serious intervention to clean up the pollution of truth in politics, this spiral will lead to the end of our political order as we know it. It’s no exaggeration to say that relying on emotions and personal opinions over  facts will very likely destroy our political system.

When government doesn’t have the public trust, it needs a reliable truth detector. Emotion and personal belief, in the definition of post-truth, overrules objective facts. Emotion and personal belief gives a feeling of certainty. At the risk of a self-serving opinion, I would propose that attaching feelings of doubt, uncertainty and open-mindedness to one’s emotions, beliefs, facts and truths would serve as a possible sensor or detector of reality. Definition of reality: The state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them. Oxford Dictionary.

Doubt, uncertainty and open-mindedness lead to questions and being receptive to new ideas and information. Being sure you posses the truth leads to closed-mindedness, which is unreceptive and has nowhere to go. Maybe we should start a political discussion (or even a debate) about the virtues of open-mindedness vs. the virtues of closed-mindedness. Which is the best truth detector?

  • An article titled “Toward a Post-Lies Future” in Utne Reader, Summer 2017 and The Humanist, March – April 2017


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A Place Where The Eye And The Mind Meet

 The eye sees in things what it looks for and it looks for what is already in the mind.                   Motto of The Scientific School of Police, Paris

The quote above explains the intersection of seeing and believing and describes the role of the eye and the mind. Seeing always involves an observer and the observer’s eyes and mind. This blog is to urge readers to be a self-aware observer — paying attention to the way they see things, and why. “Why did I see it that way and why did someone else see it differently?”

The eye sees things and the mind believes things. This is the subjective part of observation. Objectivity is the subject’s delusion that observation can be done without him. Heinz von Foerster. It will take a self-aware observer to understand the complex process of seeing and believing. Seeing and believing cannot be disconnected. Do we see what we believe or do we believe what we see? “Seeing is believing” is an idiom first recorded in this form in 1639 that meant “only physical or concrete evidence is convincing”. It also became known to mean, “If I see it I will know it is true.” Buckminster Fuller, among others, pointed out the problem with this idiom:  Seeing is believing is a blind spot in man’s vision. 

 Since then, a modern version of the idiom has emerged: “Believing is seeing.” This version suggests that your mind has an influence on what you see. (School of Police quote). Others have explained it as well:

Your beliefs are cause maps that you impose on the world after which                                   you “see” what you have already imposed.  Karl Weick

We tend to see more through our thoughts and opinions that through our eyes.                        Jon Kabat-Zinn

 Being a self-aware observer is the “intersection strategy” to overcome this “blind spot” and to notice what your mind has imposed and/or how your thoughts and opinions have influenced.  Seeing is done by an observer, and the observer is also a believer. Whatever you see is what YOU see. What you see is not what everyone else sees; and it is not all there is. To be self-aware is to be mindful. Mindfulness is a way of looking into oneself and paying attention to what one is paying attention to and not paying attention to.

Be aware that what you see may not be reality. You see the sum rise and the sun set, but the sun isn’t rising or setting. You see the airplane getting smaller as it flies away, but the airplane isn’t getting smaller. The eye often needs the help of the mind when interpreting what one sees. Your mind may necessarily be interpreting what you see and/or unnecessarily determining what you see.

We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.  Anais Nin



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 It Will Politically Change The Way We Do Things

 The minute you make up your mind that the way you see things makes a difference,         it will make a difference in the way you see things — and do things.

The above quote has been a theme of my writing for ten years about “The Process of Illumination”, describing a process of illuminating, understanding and expanding our collective worldview one worldview at a time. I believe that we, the American people are beginning to see that the way we see things makes a difference. That belief is the reason for this blog.

The way you see things is important to me and the way I see things is important to you because the way we see things has consequences for everyone and the planet. Ten years ago most people agreed that the direction the world was heading was not where they wanted to go. But they apparently didn’t see that changing direction was up to them, or they didn’t see change was possible, or they didn’t see how they could make a difference. This was a case of “the way you see the problem IS the problem”

Today, even more people believe that the direction America is heading is not where they want to go. And it seems that recently many people are beginning to see that the solution to changing direction is up to them. Since the way we see things determines the way we do things, this is good news. What we the people do and don’t do, in todays world of turmoil, surly will have important consequences for everyone and the planet.

I believe expanding our collective worldview is beginning to happen. We are beginning to make up our minds that the way we see thigs makes a difference. And this makes a difference in what we do and don’t do. Changing the direction American is heading could depend on a collective worldview of we the people making up our minds.

Our minds are the source, and properly directed,                                                                           the solution to all our problems.  The Dalai Lama

A small group of people changing the way they see things could become a large group of people, which could become a majority. A majority of people making up their minds that the way they see things makes a difference — can make a difference.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change                       the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead







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And Partly Open-Minded

Its no good being absolutely certain unless you happen to be right.   Ashleigh Brilliant

My theme song has been positive uncertainty. The definition of words has frequently been an issue. In writing, different interpretations of language often interferes. This blog is my attempt to utilize the dictionary to help in promoting my concept of positive uncertainty.

For example, in my writing, the definition of the word certain is important. Here is a dictionary definition, with a user note: Certain: Definite, fixed; inevitable, beyond doubt or question; indisputable. User note: Although certain appears to be an absolute term, it is frequently qualified by adverbs, as in fairly certain. (The majority of the User Panel accepted this construction.) The user panel gives us some insight into the concept of uncertainty by saying it is ok to be a little uncertain. And maybe it suggests that being definite, fixed and beyond doubt is being too rigid and needs an adverb qualifier.

For me, to be fairly certain means also to be fairly uncertain, which means to have some doubt. My belief is that we should always be at least fairly uncertain and partly open-minded. This means we are receptive to new and different ideas and capable of changing our minds. To be dogmatic and closed-minded means to have no doubts and to be unable to change. To expect total open-mindedness and total uncertainty is probably not reasonable. But a little bit of open-mindedness and no dogma sounds a lot like positive uncertainty.

My Positive Uncertainty has been characterized as: “The benefit of doubt and the danger of dogma.” The dictionary describes: Doubt, to be skeptical or undecided; Dogma, a fixed belief or set of beliefs that people are expected to accept without any doubts. By definition uncertainty is the opposite of dogma; and this is my reason for promoting it.

To repeat my Positive Uncertainty rationale:

Decision making is about the future. The future doesn’t exist, it is uncertain and not predictable. If the future were certain, there is nothing you can do about it. Its uncertainty provides you with some possibilities. When you are making decisions about the future, doesn’t it seem wise to be fairly certain and partly open-minded?

The best way to predict the future is to create it.  Peter Drucker

Keeping the mind open in the face of uncertainty is the single most powerful                    secret of unleashing your creative potential.   Michael Gelb







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Is There Such A Thing?

 The power of science lies in its skeptical, rational, evidenced-based approach to understanding the world.  David J. Helford

On Saturday, April 22 the American people put on a demonstration about respecting science in today’s politics. This is in response to the Donald Trump and GOP current practice of dismantling and defunding environmental laws and slashing funds for scientific research. The scientific community, and now the American public, are urging precisely the opposite approach. Today there does seem to be alternative facts, false knowledge, fake news, and truthiness. Could it be we are now having alternative science?

The economy, not the environment, seems to be the focus of the alternative science approach of the current administration. Scientists are watching all this in horror, along with the demonstrators. Putting environmental efforts on hold for four or eight years of a Trump presidency is unthinkable for many scientists. Climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe, co author of the 2014 book National Climate Assessment, compared Washington’s approach to climate change to a person diagnosed with lung cancer continuing to smoke.

The scientific method involves hypotheses and evidence testing. The power of “political alternative science” is that they don’t have to follow the scientific method. Political laws, unlike scientific laws, are not hypotheses. They are not automatically open to scientific review. At this point in our evolution, there is no alternative to science because today there is no other rational, evidenced-based approach to understanding the world.

Republicans seem to not only be fighting democrats, they also seem to be fighting science. We need a government that respects and relies on science. The turnout at the April 22d marches demonstrates the amount of need in the voting public.

In this bewildering world we have to decide what to believe and how to act on that. In principle that’s what science is for. Science is not a body of facts. Science is a method for deciding whether what we choose to believe has a basis in the laws of nature or not.      Geophysicist Marcia McNutt,

Our government today, fighting against science, doesn’t use it as a method for deciding whether what they choose to believe is true or not. They ignore the laws of science and nature. Government can’t overcome science with legislation. No one can win in the contest against science. Science always bats last.

After I finished writing this blog, President Trump, supported by republicans in congress, separated the U S from the world of science by removing this country from the Paris climate accord. Alternative science?



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A Beginners Mind

“Genuine ignorance is profitable because it leads to humility, curiosity and open-mindedness.”   John Dewey

A lot is being written lately about the virtues of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Not many people are even discussing Genuine Ignorance (GI). I believe ignorance has been getting a bad rap. Perhaps that is because in our culture we believe that intelligence is a good thing to have, even if it’s artificial, and ignorance is a bad thing to have, even if it’s genuine. But if we could promote genuine ignorance as being profitable, it might catch on. In America, being profitable is probably more popular than being intelligent. The goal of artificial intelligence is to produce intelligent computers. The goal of genuine ignorance is to produce intelligent humans.

I want to join John Dewey in promoting genuine ignorance. Of course we aren’t the only ones. Will Durant once exclaimed, “Education is the progressive discovery of our ignorance.” And Will Rogers explained that, “Everyone is ignorant, only on different subjects.”

My goal of blog writing has been to promote a collective worldview that is open and inclusive. We will need our curiosity, humility, and open-mindedness to do this. It is well known that humans have a need to know. One definition of intelligence is the capacity to acquire knowledge. Ignorance is defined as lacking in knowledge. But here comes the paradox.  Old knowledge blocks new knowing. Nietzsche. That’s because what you already know often prevents you from learning something new. Genuine ignorance will help.

Humans not only have a need to know, we want things to be perfectly clear. We want to know that this is this and that is that. It is so much easier and comfortable to be certain. However, today, the “new sciences” are based on things like the uncertainty principle, chaos theory, relativity, and complexity.  Being certain may have become a thing of the past. In today’s world; to know for sure may not be intelligent behavior.  How can genuine ignorance help?

Cultivate a Beginner’s Mind                                                       A beginner’s mind is a mind that is willing to see everything as if for the first time. Zen saying

The beginner’s mind is what Zen practitioners use when describing the notion that learning requires an empty cup. When full of what you already know it is hard to acquire new knowledge. A beginner’s mind is trying to discover its ignorance, not to disguise it. This empty cup, beginner’s mind idea is like genuine ignorance, and being child-like. Children don’t know a lot so they learn a lot. They have a beginner’s mind.

You might try thinking like a child. A child hasn’t yet learned rational, adult thinking. Almost all creative thinking techniques, brainstorming for example, involve the abandonment of rational, intelligent thinking processes. Sometimes, not always, you need to think and act playfully and foolishly (unintelligently). It is interesting to note that playfulness and foolishness are considered childlike traits. Try it, you might like it.

An open, beginner’s mind allows us to be receptive to new possibilities and prevents us from getting stuck in the rut of our own expertise, which often thinks it knows more than it does.  Jon Kabat Zinn


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