Tag Archives: unknown

Welcome, Uncertainty!

I don’t think I have ever embarked upon a life-changing journey or experience without feeling apprehensive.  I don’t think I have ever felt fully or even adequately prepared.   Why is that? I’m not the kind of person to rush blindly into everything that momentarily catches my fancy, nor am I the kind to prepare so meticulously beforhand that I never actually get round to doing anything.

I suppose at some point I realised – as most people do eventually – that you can never fully prepare for the future.  You can gather information, you can weigh pros and cons, you can discuss and debate and ponder.  You can strategise, you can draw up your business plan, you can write your speech and book your flights. But then the economy collapses, the banks stop lending, the hecklers take over and an ash cloud rises… 

This feeling of not being fully in control of your future is scary.  But not being in control of the future does not mean that you cannot be in control of yourself – after all, the only person you can control.  Uncertainty, ambiguity, unknowns make fools of us all if we let them.  But if we learn how to respond to them, how to be the reed in the wind rather than a stiff branch ready to break, uncertainty becomes exhilarating.

It’s the same when you enter a new culture.  No matter how much cultural briefing you’ve had, you’ll never be fully equipped to handle any situation.   There will always be something you haven’t quite covered.  But if you’re prepared to handle uncertainty and ambiguity, you will be more ready to listen, ask questions, be flexible and learn.

‘Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security.’  ( John Allen Paulos, professor of mathematics and probability)


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St. George’s Day

Happy St. George’s Day to all those celebrating the national holiday here in England.  Also, to Greece, Portugal, Russia, to name just a few other countries who also share St. George as a patron saint.   St. George himself may have been born in Asia Minor and joined the Roman army…  so a real global hero, as far as we know.  In fact, very little at all is known about him, the persecution of his Christian beliefs, his fate under Emperor Diocletian and even his name.  But why let facts get in the way of a good story?  Certainly fighting the dragon should be interpreted metaphorically, we hope.

The less we know for certain about a person, the more we can hang our hopes and dreams on their mysterious (and hopefully broad) shoulders.  Just look at the allure of Nick Clegg over the past week or so!

I think it is charming to retell old legends that maintain the mystery of a person that symbolises so much to so many people (I am referring to St. George again here, rather than the LibDem leader): chivalry, courage, defending the weak, even patron saint of farmers for some strange reason.  Finding out more about the ‘real’, historical St. George can only be a let down.

However, when discovering  a new culture or country, I think ‘myth-making’ and maintaining a mystique of difference and impenetrability is not helpful.  I have read enough bad science about how we can never hope to understand the heart of Japan, the soul of India, the Russian spirit…  No, we are not all the same underneath it all, but we can listen to, communicate with, learn from each other.   And even if the difference will always be there (after all, am I not different from my parents, my children, my husband?), we can still respect and love each other, even without the mystique.

What do you think: is that ‘unknown’ element an essential part of the attraction of a person or culture or country?

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