If we were honest with ourselves we’d admit there’s room to doubt everything.
With the exception of the way we block grocery aisles reading nutritional facts and product labels, it’s the doubters that keep us moving forward. The ones who refuse to settle for anything surface level. Those who will take nothing at face value, who will not accept anything as the way it is or for what it seems. Those blessed with yearning and dissatisfaction. Those who choose inquiry over an easy answer. Who choose struggle over safety. Who push too much, too hard, and too far, who find the lines and cross them. Who erase the bounds and redraw them, so they can be erased and redrawn again and again.
It’s easy to see doubters as faithless, to set skepticism as the antithesis of belief, but if we were honest with ourselves we’d see that the opposite of faith isn’t hesitancy, doubt, or trepidation, it’s certitude and immutability.
A culture that is not open to questions and questioning, a culture that thrives on the assuredness of concrete, believes in nothing but narrow blindness. Believes in only the tyrannical rightness of it’s own tenets and systems of belief. But, “by just exploring [our] questions,” says Alan Jacobs, “even if we fail to answer them, we’re pushing back against [that] tyranny”. If we were honest with ourselves we’d know that its only our questions that can save us. We’d see that certainty impedes all discovery.
“There is a defiance in being a dreamer”, V.E. Schwab says, a renunciation of any allegiance to stasis. A rebellion against the current state of affairs. Behind every probing suspicion, every examining gaze, every critical incredulity, behind the doubt of every doubters doubting there is the hope that things can be better, that things can different then the way they are. If we are honest with ourselves we’d notice that all throughout history, it’s the doubters who dream of possibility.
“Where is it virtue comes from?” Horace asks. It comes from what we ask. From the very heart of the act of asking. Not from what we find, but from what we seek. Perhaps even how we seek it . We seek success, fulfillment, and achievement. We seek efficiency and productivity. We try to reach our goals. We try to satisfy a deeper need. But, if we were honest with ourselves we’d admit that even when want the right things we want them for the wrong reasons. Perhaps, we should bring some doubt to our desires and wonder what it might be like to be at peace.
Guy Debord says that “The first stage of the economy’s domination of social life brought about an evident degradation of being into having — human fulfillment was no longer equated with what one was, but with what one possessed.” If we were honest with ourselves we’d ask better questions. We’d look at the Buy With One Click buttons, the things that we don’t need, the likes that make us into something so unlike ourselves, the hearts without a rhythm that are never really given, the ones that never beat, the shares that leave us empty, that give us nothing in return, and we’d ask ourselves if this is it? Is this all there is? If we were honest with ourselves we’d ask for something more.
Ross Gay writes about exercises in “supreme attention” that are also exercises in “supreme inattention”. Perfect melding of focus and flow, emphasis and drift. A paradox of simultaneity. A practice of ‘both/and-ing’. Both distraction and awareness. Both motion and passivity. Idleness and ambling. Long walks to nowhere and watercolors. Staring into nothing and slowly making tea. Notes in the margins. Reading. Writing. Shaded pencil lines. Rolling dice. Drawing cards. Moving pieces. Passing go to collect something more than $200 dollars and prestige. If we were honest with ourselves we ask why we don’t make time for more of these things?
If Nassim Nicholas Taleb is right about Antifragility, that somethings are strengthened by disorder, made better by stress and strain, enlivened by unrest and disarray, then perhaps there are things degraded by assuredness and improved by inefficiency. Perhaps there is a focus attained only through frivolity. A transformation through inertia. A confidence in the questioning. Perhaps, stillness is it’s own trajectory.
If we were honest with ourselves we’d see that the fiat decree of self-definition based on possession is bullshit. Being enough through having enough, through doing enough, through producing enough, is never enough. Being self-possessed is something else, something completely different. If we were honest with ourselves we’d doubt everything.
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