Certainty

Does it exist?


Close-up of lemon flower surrounded by green leaves.
This lemon flower at Evergreen may turn into a lemon - or it may not.

Seen written on the side of a truck in Perth: Delivering Certainty. That’s all I have time to note before it roars past, so I don’t know what form the Certainty they deliver would take — perhaps leak-proof nappies, drip-less tap fittings, or computers with no inbuilt obsolescence.


Ten kilometres down the road I’m still mulling over the expression: Delivering Certainty. I’d love to have a box of Certainty delivered to my door.


I imagine the truck pulling into my driveway. The driver gets out, opens the great doors at the back, reaches in, and grabs a large box labelled Certainty. He gives it to me, I sign a document to acknowledge I’ve received it, he drives off and I go inside, put the unexpectedly lightweight box on the kitchen table, sit down, and look at it.


I’m too nervous to open the box.


What will Certainty look like? Where will I put it? In the pantry, the wardrobe, or the office? Under my pillow, in my purse, or in the pocket of my pink leather jacket? Should Certainty be kept warm or chilled? If I freeze it will it keep longer?


What will it do to me, now that I have a big bit of it? What will it change?


I open the box and look inside. It’s empty except for a sheet labelled Instructions.


I love Instructions. They excite me. They make me feel — well — certain. Certain that what something is supposed to do, or turn out to be, will happen, because I follow the Instructions that come with it. My yogurt maker, and the Ikea wheeled sideboard I put together with an Allan key, are good examples.


(Just a side issue here. I think babies should come with a set of instructions. Baby comes out, followed by the placenta, closely followed by a waterproof sheet of paper with specific instructions for that particular baby.)


But, back to the Instructions for my box of Certainty.


All it says, in bold, uppercase letters, in a variety of languages, is:


THERE IS NO SUCH THING.


I consider racing after the truck to get my money back, but I’m not certain where I left my running shoes, and, besides, this almost empty box has taught me something.


Merriam-Webster dictionary lists synonyms for certainty as being assurance, confidence, sureness, doubtlessness. Having certainty about something means we have no doubts about it, we rely upon it, know it to be true. We rest assured in it.


We like certainty. We thrive on it. Build our lives around it.

What if we couldn’t be certain the sun will come up tomorrow? We’d go to bed every night and cower under the blankets, fearing endless blackness, hoping for morning light. If that were the case, no plans would be made, no seeds sown, no book tour talks written, no lottery tickets bought. What would be the point?


The fact that there are roads, roller-coasters, post offices, and plumbers is evidence that there’s enough certainty in the world for us to be getting on with daily life.


But all our certainty is merely an assumption that things will continue as they are.


And they never do.


So, really, there is no such thing as certainty — except in our heads.


Mindfulness and Certainty


Of course, there’s no need for you to cower under the blankets tonight, uncertain whether the sun will rise. It probably will. But don’t line your life with certainty. Don’t pad your day with it. Don’t shroud your mind with thick layers of the stuff.


Why not? Because you’ll be disappointed.


Life is full of uncertainty.


And all you can do with the uncertainty that constantly surrounds you is respond to it as it arises in the moment.


With love, Marlane

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