Reflection: Living in a Time of Uncertainty


1916168_10207313793101028_7880170773515421357_nPA IPL board member Rachel Mark gave this reflection as one of three on the theme of Uncertainty at the Unitarian Church of Harrisburg on Sunday, April 10.  Reprinted here with permission.

To be alive is to be uncertain.  In our current time, we face political, social, financial, and health uncertainties. We seem to be on a precipice of uncertainties, all of which lead to increasing fear – fear of change, fear of strangers, fear of an unfamiliar world, fear of the future.

I recently asked a good friend who reads and studies history if he thought the current historical time period was more uncertain than any previous historical time.  He thought for a minute and responded that he thought this time in history might be uniquely uncertain because of the global impacts of climate change.   You would expect that response from me, but I certainly did not expect it from him.

An important question to ask is how we respond to uncertainty.    You may have heard of the quote from “Unknown”:   “Be decisive.  Right or wrong, make a decision.  The road of life is paved with flat squirrels who could not make a decision”.

If we are to respond, how do we make a decision that is not merely reactive, but appropriate and intelligent?   In a time of uncertainty, it is critical that we make informed and wise decisions.

Climate scientists are giving us a short window of time to act on climate change, before it is no longer in our control.  Every day, every year, and every decade that we delay– increases the very real probability that our children will have to deal with a climate and a world out of their control, one that will consume their life.

In the past week, it seems as if uncertainties about the climate system are making headline news, including the Washington Post’s  “Why uncertainty about climate change is definitely not our friend”, and a recent book, Climate Change: A Wicked Problem: Complexity and Uncertainty at the Intersection of Science, Economics, Politics, and Human Behavior.

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If I am still here in 20 years, I do not want to say, it was all so uncertain, so we were squirrels, clinging to the middle of the road.    We didn’t have enough courage or enough groundswell support to make the change.

Joanna Macy’s book Active Hope calls for an affirmation of what we as people value too much to lose.   Life is an evolving story and we have the ability to change the story to align more fully with what we believe to be meaningful and sacred.   Because there is huge uncertainty about future outcomes, it makes sense to focus on what we would like to see, a vision of the possible, and then do our part to make it more likely.   An Active Hope workshop will take place here at Clover Lane in May and I have information available.

Environmental activist and prolific writer Bill McKibben, wrote this week that something remarkable is happening everywhere: resistance.   People around the world are beginning to understand the urgency of climate change.  This is welcome news; however, the question is, will we have the groundswell movement it will take to move us to a safe road.  That remains uncertain.

In her book, Great Tide Rising, Kathleen Dean Moore says , “It is a profoundly unsettling time, the time of a paradigm shift to a life-sustaining civilization.  Old beliefs have given way under the weight of new ecological understanding”, and here she is talking about the interconnected web of life, of which we are all very familiar.  The search is on for a new way, the Great Turning.

She goes on, “It’s sad and lonely to live a life you don’t believe in.  But to be an active part of a purposeful community of caring, to preserve what is alive and beautiful, to really live your love for your grandchildren, to become part of a movement for change?  There is joy in that—to be in alliance with people who care about the living things you care about more than anything else in the world.

This is the time.  This is the top of the hill when the beautiful blue marble earth can roll either way.  The world is holding its breath.