I had a conversation last night, in a pub (drunk) that about where we each ‘come from’.
It was good-natured banter, but I’ve realised this morning what it was that got my goat. Certainty really fucks me off.
The gist of this banter was that I look a bit non-English, whatever that means, and this friendly guy was trying to guess where I was from (which is fine), and what pissed me off was the certainty that I was or wasn’t something. How can we know? How can we absolutely belong or come from somewhere? (This guy thought he was ‘English’, which when pressed he considered himself to be ‘Anglo-Saxon’, which is pretty funny).
Anyway, that’s not the real nub of it for me. This isn’t about nationality – it’s about certainty.
The last conversation I had that agitated this same sense for me was about humans as rational beings.
In this conversation a mate of mine was staunchly advocating the idea of humans as being frequently rational – making rational decisions, thinking sensibly, thoroughly, rigorously.
I think that’s bollocks 🙂 Personally I believe that even when we’re making ‘rational decisions’ or ‘being rational’, that we’re not at all. Utter guff! But this friend was utterly convinced of the certainty that we are often rational.
I just don’t get certainty. I can’t seem to tolerate it. It doesn’t fit with what I see and have experienced in my limited quaint little life.
What also excites this intolerance in me is the religion of Science, and those espousing a kind of fundamentalist atheism, both of which seem to be all the rage in my world of otherwise likeminded left-leaning liberal folk.
I really appreciate and admire the work of science and its huge contributions to the world we live in. That’s all good. And I agree that lots of religious stuff is silly, oppresses millions of people, is the banner and excuse for war and unnecessary pain, and mostly doesn’t make any sense. But there’s a kind of certainty – sometimes – that I can’t bear.
Won’t there always be things that elude or surprise us? Can’t we only really know stuff and account for it once it’s happened (Black Swan kinda thing)? Doesn’t history tell us that we have a track record of convincing ourself of stuff and then later finding out that we were, in fact, completely wrong? Isn’t the world always going to be partly unknowable?
For me, certainty is the preserve of haughty pompous fools and can fuck right off 🙂