The Myth of Certainty

To hold questions seriously is much more a source of spiritual wisdom than to have quick and easy certitudes. The ego and the mind want to rush to judgment. What the mystics and the true spiritual directors teach is how to negotiate that darkness, how to wait it out, how to hold on. Remember what Mark Twain said: “It is not what you don’t know that harms you, it is what you know for certain—and it just ain’t true!”

– Richard Rohr, adapted from Holding the Tension: The Power of Paradox, discs 1 and 3 (CD, MP3 download)


I holed up in my room with CNN and Kit Kats from the mini-bar, and grew increasingly tense . . . I imagined everything that could go wrong that night, and then moved into the more spacious realms of gum surgery and colon cancer. I got some communion Milanos out of the mini-bar, performed the sacrament, and then prayed that I could just keep the faith. I have a lot of faith. But I am also afraid a lot, and have no real certainty about anything. I remembered something Father Tom had told me – that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns. Faith also means reaching deeply within, for the sense one was born with, the sense, for example, to go for a walk.

Anne Lamott, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith


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