The grey of uncertainty

6 03 2012

When I venture out of my office cubicle into the sunlight for a break, I often walk the city block which takes me past the District Court Building. It’s new and filled with state-of-the-art equipment and facilities. I’m struck by the energy and vibe surrounding the place. It’s quite harsh and agitated, buzzing with life and raw emotion – anxiety, sorrow, anger, love, bitterness, revenge, disappointment, betrayal, triumph, arrogance, brokenness.  I can feel it as I walk past and through the crowd.

Camera and news crews often gather outside to catch a glimpse of a shielded person emerging from the glass doors. Men in tailored suits wearing starched collars and bands walk swiftly past those sitting on the pavement smoking. Families huddle close together, security guards watching closely in case any anger erupts. Large refrigerated trucks deliver new people each day to the underground holding cells while others enter the front door with lattes in hand.

I took this picture (below) on the courthouse steps some time ago and I’ve been waiting to see what it would tell me. It was only last week, as I was walking past it again, that I realised it’s built and furnished in black and white. A courthouse, a place of judgement that is clothed in black and white. The irony wasn’t lost on me. I wonder if it was designed on purpose to subliminally represent a place that contrasts life on a wide spectrum of right and wrong, captive and free, law and justice…?
I find so many things in life are much more grey these days. It is not as simple as black and white. Sometimes I long for decisions to be that easy, definite, sure. Nowadays I consider more factors, more points of view and possibilities.

Chaos calls to order

My childhood was spent in a chaotic home, the mood of the day and the hour often unpredictable. In my late teens I adopted a religious conviction which imposed rules in black and white. Every question had an answer. Every event had a reason, a purpose, a plan. It was comforting (because I had seen the light) and for the first time in my life things were predictable, answers were clear, decisions were easy and my ground was solid. I felt at peace. Certain and sure. It was a huge relief.

Inevitably, whatever we cling to with such a ferocious grip starts to crumble after a while unless we submit ourselves further.  For me it became harsh, unbending, cold and restrictive.  Answers became simplistic and naive, shallow and merciless.  I became repulsed by the very thing that attracted me and saw that the strong rules and black and white outlook was cruelly divisive – good and evil, heaven and hell, saved and lost, in and out, sinner and saint, us and them.

I left and am now a fringe dweller who roams on the edge of faith, still deeply moved by the beauty of creation and the ineffable divine presence that is somehow in the very air I breathe, yet I’m far from institutionalised religion.  In hindsight, I don’t regret the experience or that part of my journey. It was comforting for a time and gave me the certainty and clarity I needed to help stabilise my life.  I had a yardstick, a compass, a guide.  For a time.

Shades of Grey
But life is not that simple. Decisions are difficult if you dig a little deeper than the obvious. People are complex, relationships deep, motives often unknown, history hidden, stories untold.  Eventually I could no longer live such a black and white existence without having to knowingly destroy part of myself.  After leaving, I mourned the loss of a solid platform (and a lot of friends) in favour of feeling rudderless again.  Life is complex and now that I live within the spectrum of grey there is more mystery, more uncertainty and unknowing. I know much less than I used to know.  I have less answers and more mercy.

The challenge for me is to live with the uncertainty, the mystery and the confusion and be content with ‘not knowing’.  I’m aware too that even in saying that I might be setting up my own duality between ‘knowing’ and ‘unknowing’. It is tricky. The difficulty for me is not in being present with mystery and being patient as it slowly reveals itself;  it is holding myself back from trying to solve it and assign it a ‘reason‘ or explanation in order to label it, contain it and file it away.

Am I dwelling? over thinking? wallowing? navel gazing? To some, maybe. But I think I’ve felt another shift – one that let’s me say “I don’t know” more often. But this time I’m content with that answer.  I don’t need to know ‘why this or that happened’ or to find a reason.  But I might need to find another walking route for a while.

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7 responses

6 03 2012
sea fringed edge

Such a lot of what you have written of here has meaning for me because of personal experience. I was a probation officer for over twenty years for example. I’m from a highly dysfunctional family background. I too sought meaning in religious experience. But, the middle way has been mine for some time. I’m not a fence sitter, I think I hide behind one and occasionally emerge through a hidden door. I find it extremely difficult still to make sense of the world yet I’ve been managing to live in it a long time and have many blessings. I admire your bravery and eloquence.

7 03 2012
Louise

Thank you. Yes, a religious framework and community can provide a great sense of belonging that can be attractive and comforting, but there are down sides too – just as there are in any groups. I’m glad you found me here, life is full of blessings!

7 03 2012
weavers journaler

I wonderful blog – I love the way you have connected the visual image of the balck and white court house with legalistic judgements of dualistic thinking.
I too have experienced the “certainties” and “in/out”, “right/wrong” type judgements of fundamentalist religious groups. It provided a security and a guide of sorts at some stages of my life, but it became a prison and a trap and I had to get out.
These days I think I am learning that the spirituality of letting go, losing control and opening my eyes to the beauty and complexity of what is – is more akin to “faith” than any of my surely held “beliefs” of the past. Thank you for honesty in sharing.

7 03 2012
Louise

Coming out of fundamentalism is a hard, long and lonely road. I’m glad to hear that spirituality and connection has grown for you out of that experience. I am opening more and more to the wonder and complexity of life and being more willing to relax into it. Hard to explain adequately but I’m sure you know what I mean. 😉

8 03 2012
goatman

The certitude of religion is always appealing, and has always been over the years. But just as in a plotting of random activities, there are always the outliers — those for whom wonder and searching still exists.

But it is a hard road there, with nothing definite to cling to. A warriors heart is required. . .

Just some thoughts from a passerby.

8 03 2012
Louise

Eeek!! Goatman, you’re right and obviously tracking your own route out on the fringe. Thanks for passing through – I really appreciate your comment.

18 03 2012
A versatile blogger?! | Weavers Journal

[…] The award was new to me but a great way to promote blogs you find interesting. I certainly enjoy Lousie’s insights and honest observations about her life and her environment. Why not have a look at her blog – I especially enjoyed her recent “Black and white and shades of grey” […]

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