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The Perils of Certainty

By Joe Clark

I consider myself a patient person, with a very calm temperament. No, I’m only kidding. I’m a hot mess with a short fuse. I make mountains out of mole hills, as the saying goes. I really don’t feel like I’m all that good at being patient. I have to try very hard at it. And I’m getting better, it’s safe to say, as the years go by.

However, it’s safe to say that I’m losing my patience with some of the things I see on my Facebook feed. Big shocker, I know. But having been on Facebook for over ten years, I can say that the level of cold-hearted word-war-waging that I’ve seen in recent months is new. I can’t, in all honesty, say that I’m surprised, but I’m disappointed. 

Facebook angry face


I haven’t personally been attacked by anyone on Facebook, and there’s a very simple reason for this: I don’t share my opinions. I just don’t do it. I have plenty of them – opinions, that is. I feel all kinds of ways about what’s going on in the world, but as I scroll through my newsfeed and read opinionated posts and the subsequent vitriolic comments, I’m promptly convinced that sharing my opinion would be a bad idea. I simply do not have the energy or the patience to field the attacks that will inevitably proceed. 

So, what do I do? What should we all do? How will we ever survive without unabashedly spewing our opinions all over the internet (please read my sarcasm)? Here’s what we do: we don’t. Your perspective matters, but it’s just YOUR perspective. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but not everyone sees things the way you do. 

Here’s a thought: do we really want everyone else to see things our way? Isn’t the difference in our perspectives what enables us to grow? Where have we learned anything if not from perspectives that deviate from our own? Do we really want to learn? 

Ah! There it is. Do we really want to learn?

I would posit that we don’t want to learn. We desire to believe that we’re teaching. We search out information that validates our perspectives so we can hurl that information at others in order to “teach” them our ways. How humble of us. 

Some will say, “these are the facts.”

Some will say, “the science is clear!”

Let’s get something straight here: science isn’t clear about anything. Yes, that’s what I said. The scientific process that some of us hold so highly as having all the answers is not clear nor uniform nor consistent. Yes, there are experiments, and yes, they can sometimes be repeated, but there is no objective reality. The more we break down this reality that we’re all agreeing we perceive, the less sense any of it makes through our scientific processes. 

There’s this thing in quantum mechanics called the collapse of the wave function. We have learned through our limited means of observation that the behavior of certain subatomic particles depends on our observation of said particles – that we actually alter these atoms fundamentally by looking at them. I’ll say it again a little differently: atoms – which make up all matter – change when we look at them. So, science is clear? Hardly. 

There is no objective reality. What we have is a collective agreement that our individual perceptions are similar enough for us to interact with each other – that when I point and say “green,” you agree. That collective agreement isn’t comprehensive for the perception of all other beings sharing this reality with us. Dogs can hear more frequencies than we can. Certain animals have the ability to sense electromagnetic fields. Some snakes have a completely separate set of “eyes” that only pick up infrared light. 

What I’m saying is that we don’t know everything about everything, and most of us don’t even know what we don’t know. When we break down our reality into small enough parts, nothing makes sense by our defined laws of physics anyway. The same is true the farther we look into space. Furthermore, our experience defines our experience – meaning, our current experiences will shape how we experience future experiences. So, if there’s no objective reality, and our experience defines our experience, how do we agree about anything?

We choose to. 

If we did not, presumably, we would die. But who knows for sure? I think the more pertinent question right now is what do we do with our perceived disagreements? The answer for most people at this point is to hurl our perspectives at others in an attempt to “educate” them on the “correct” way to be. But let’s be honest, most people don’t change their mind because someone berated them on Facebook. If anything, I’d say that people become more entrenched in their ideologies when under an attack by an opposing viewpoint. 

In these times of constant conflict of ideology, the only thing we all agree on is that the issues at hand are important. But in the end, we disagree on which road to go down. So, I’d like to posit my opinion: the issues we are arguing about day in and day out are not important. Each of these issues has something more profound and meaningful beneath it. What’s beneath the surface?



Human beings are not defined by social or cultural issues. We’re not defined by the color of our skin or by who we vote for. We are who God says we are. Now would be the time to grab your torches and pitchforks, if that’s your prerogative. Burn me at the stake if you must, but none of us is, under all this importance we’ve assigned ourselves, anything except what and who God has defined. 

Don’t believe in God? Good for you. That does not mean that God does not exist. Your stated beliefs do not define what reality is for everyone (or for anyone, necessarily). Likewise, how someone defines God intellectually is not necessarily who or what God is. Our society is shackled by its own certainty. We are so drowning in our egos that we simply cannot accept unfamiliar ideas or information. 

As I said before, we don’t know everything about everything. Heck, we don’t know everything about anything. But here’s the thing about God: God does know everything. So, maybe instead of arguing, we should be praying. If you don’t “pray,” then do whatever it is you do when you’re holding good things in your heart for others (it helps if God is involved, just saying). Pray for those with whom you disagree. Pray for those that make you angry. Pray for the people whose ideas are difficult for you to understand. Pray for yourself– that you would have the kind of courage it takes to love someone who makes you uncomfortable. Because, while your opinions may matter to you, your opinions don’t mean anything without engaging in loving relationships

Stay weird, my friends. 

And be kind. 

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About the Author

Man with a beard playing guitar
If there’s one thing people always say about Joe Clark, it might be that he has a way with words. Born and raised in Montrose, CO, Joe has spent the better part of his life as a poet, songwriter, and musician. As a self-proclaimed weirdo, he hopes to use words to inspire people to think differently about the issues of our time.