Entering the realms of uncertainty

The Wisdom of Uncertainty is probably Alan Watts’ best-known book. In it, he describes the fundamental openness of the future, the horrible indeterminacy, and the lack of control that is indicative of our condition as embodied beings in this collective experience we call human life on planet earth. This embodiment, this consciousness, is a fragile, finite thing–despite the ramparts and buttresses especially western civilization has erected to attempt to dam(n) the inexorable flow of life and death. This fear of death, what Freud diagnosed as Thanatos, or the death instinct, is precisely what compels us towards our destruction. For the desire for death (thanatos) and the fear of death, are just the Janus faces of craving and aversion. That is, both instincts, are out of alignment with the fact of death itself. And of life, for that matter. Death and life are not events or limns to be fetishized, but respected.

As we’re reaching a low for the human race, ecocide, renewed racism and sexism, there is hope. And there is despair. Resting in either of these is unwise, as they are both incomplete half-truths. The steps back with every step forward, are indicative of predators and parasites holding on to their host, believing that their stability and certainty is tied up with dominating others. There is no recognition that maybe they themselves also are fluid, queer beings, subject to change and metamorphosis. No, instead–and in fact what ontologically makes a parasite a parasite–they are blind to the potential to be anything else. They are scared of evolving. They are scared of readapting to a changed ecology. This is the diagnosis of late capitalism, the 1%, the billionaire class, the anthrobscene, etc.

The world has inexorably changed. The parasites struggle to claw is back into their stodgy control.

Uncertainty, however, is all that exists. This is its wisdom. All marginalized people, all poor, all survivors, have known and made friends with uncertainty. It is the condition of the have-nots. It is the condition of the downtrodden. Only the elites, in their golden cages, have been interred sufficiently to dampen it down, and pretend that it will not affect them. They have their bat caves and getaway plans for nuclear war, climate change, and other catastrophes that they don’t realize they are creating through betting on war and overconsumption. It is their fear of the apocalypse–in whatever flavor their ego’s fears devise–that is in fact driving the need for such poppycock (which, incidentally, won’t save them at all, should any real disaster take place). We clearly see in this case that the very fear of death is the very drive towards committing oneself and the rest of life here to death. It is the fear of death that is itself bound up with the thanatos instinct. Dispossession by accumulation renders both populations impoverished, in of course different ways. But this fundamental, not-so-esoteric-at-all teaching, is precisely what the Confucians, the Jesuses, the Buddhas, have taught. This is old hat for real philosophers, like Socrates, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, or Emma Goldman. The more we squeeze and tighten that sphincter, the greater the deluge when the dam breaks.

For better or worse, we’re entering an age where there is no longer refuge in the illusions of certainty, even as the political classes will do their best to insulate themselves from the real harms as long as possible, and in so doing, also refuse to act until it’s their home, their children, their food and water. That is why insulating anyone from what the worst-off are experiencing is a recipe for political and social and ecological disaster. That is why no more representation is needed, no more banks, no more politics. We’ve got distributed blockchain technologies, that are chomping at the bit to replace these old gatekeepers of power. And in the process, we may very well realize that we all breathe the same air. What we put into the air, we all suffer from. Exceptions? Absolutely none.