Billy Knapp: Uncertainty. That is appropriate for matters of this world

 

Alice Longbaugh: I never had his certainties. I suppose it is a defect.

Billy Knapp: I don’t think it’s a defect at all. Oh, no. Uncertainty. That is appropriate for matters of this world. Only regarding the next are we vouchsafed certainty.

Alice Longbaugh: Yes.

Billy Knapp: I believe certainty regarding that which we can see and touch, it is seldom justified, if ever. Down the ages, from our remote past, what certainties survive? And yet we hurry to fashion new ones. Wanting their comfort. Certainty, is the easy path. Just as you said.

– from Ballad of Buster Scruggs, the Cohen brothers

I found this exchange between Billy and Alice beautiful in its simplicity and honesty.

Uncertainty is appropriate for any idea we have. For anything we think we know, whether it’s the big picture questions or our everyday life. Any thought comes with a question mark, whether we notice or not.

Telling ourselves we have certainty about something is a way to seek comfort. In a sense, it’s the “easy” path since we can pretend to know and we don’t need to question it or explore it further. And yet, it’s not so easy because somewhere we know we are deceiving ourselves. And it’s out of alignment with reality and life may, at any moment, show that to us. Life may present us with a situation showing us that one of our most cherished ideas was not true, or not as true as we wanted it to be.

This is also why we get the preaching pattern (or lecturing or proselytizing pattern). We hold onto a thought or idea in order to find comfort or safety. Somewhere, we know we cannot know for certain if the thought or idea is true. And we probably know, somewhere that we hold onto it to find comfort. And we may, secretly, fear that life – at any time – will show us it’s not as true as we wanted it to be. If we are not honest with ourselves about this, then one way to deal with the inevitable tension inherent in these dynamics is to preach to others. We lecture and try to convince others the initial thought or idea is true so we can feel better about holding onto it for ourselves. At least, others are in the same boat. In an even more basic sense, we lecture others so we can hear it ourselves. We lecture ourselves about the importance of believing the initial thought or idea. We try to remove our own doubt, which is impossible. Doubt is sanity. Doubt is being aligned with reality. We can never completely deceive ourselves.

Uncertainty. That is appropriate for matters of this world. Only regarding the next are we vouchsafed certainty.

Uncertainty is appropriate for matters of this world. It’s appropriate for any thought and anything that has to do with the content of our experience. We cannot know or say anything for certain about this.

Only about the “next” world can we say anything for certain. Perhaps not the way Billy may have thought about it, but in another way. The only thing we know for certain is that we are – what the mind may label – consciousness.

We cannot say anything for certain about the content of consciousness. But we can say for certain that there is consciousness. That’s not only what we are but all we are, in our own immediate experience. The whole world, as it appears to us, and whatever we take ourselves to be as a human being, happens within and as consciousness.

It happens within and as what we are. And we can label that consciousness, awakeness, or whatever else we like. (Of course, the label and any ideas we have about it happens within and as content of consciousness!)

Down the ages, from our remote past, what certainties survive?

And that’s how it is today as well. The certainties we have today – collectively – will not survive. Future generations will have other certainties, and these also won’t survive.

Initial notes….

  • Uncertainty – that is appropriate
    • appropriate for any thought we have, are all questions
    • certainty – to find comfort, the “easy” path (bc can pretend to know, but not easy bc somewhere we know we are deceiving ourselves + is out of alignment with reality)
    • the only certainty
      • consciousness itself
      • content of consciousness, uncertain
      • but certain we are what we may label consciousness
        • the label makes it content of consciousness, is good to notice

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