Uncertainty, awe and relationships

Lost and Confused Signpost

Facts about uncertainty

Our typical response to chaos is an instinctual drive to impose order and regain control. Our fear of uncertainty often impels us toward irrational and sometimes bizarre behavior.” (The Impermanence Of Being: Toward A Psychology Of Uncertainty, Kerry Gordon, Journal of Humanistic Psychology 2003 43: 96)

Undoubtedly there is a human need for order be it on an individual or a collective level. Order makes humans feel capable to control things. In a Kemetic context this takes shape as the concept of Ma’at the divine cosmic order which appears in every single detail of creation and needs to be upheld.

In modern societies most of us live in a luxury of order(s) and controllability. So much that we occasionally feel imprisoned by them and start to idealize and romanticize “freedom” – not quite knowing what its price actually is. We tend to view freedom in a positive notion as in “free from (selectively chosen) boundaries” ignoring how unrealistic and narcissistic this is. Most people living in a stable situation of order hardly ever consider freedom as overwhealming randomness and uncontrollability and as such as something rather threatening. This has basically been the daily challenge of people living a lot closer to nature and its uncontrolable powers than we do today.

Myths and mystery

Dealing with the myths and mysteries of an ancient religion like the Kemetic one (and many other pagan ones) we also face the historical record of human beings trying to get a grip on what appeared uncontrollable to them. Whether you refer to this as “nature” or “divine power” is negligible here. What counts is the fact that human beings have tried to discover and/or establish an order in the unexplainable to be able to get a grip on it and somehow interact with it.

According to Platon a myth can contain both true and wrong facts. In a broader sense, a myth can also name people, things or events of great symbolic importance or it can simply be a misconception. Myths do not aim to prove something the basically report something in a picturesque way. The timeless container of these attempts and interaction are not only written record but also artwork, architecture, rituals, specific mentalities, cultural particularities etc.

Uncertainty and awe

The main difference of a religious approach to uncertainty compared to a scientific one is probably the phenomenon of awe which has become a constant in religion. In science uncertainty is regarded almost like an enemy that needs to be eliminated at any price. Awe has close to no meaning in science and only appears as a personal individual feeling but is basically unnecessary for the scientific methodology itself. In religion, however, awe marks the human reaction to what is still uncertain and not controllable. In fact awe may even become the main force behind religious practice.


Psychology of uncertainty

Uncertainty on a collective level can have an amazing effect. If people face a situation of uncertainty together they suddenly start to interact and cooperate (this can of course change rapidly if the uncertainty becomes an actual graspable threat). Have you ever been on a train and the train suddenly stopped in the middle of nowhere? Do you remember what people immeditately do? The look up from their newspapers, notebooks and phones and start looking at each other, smile, talk… They start to interact and connect in order to share the sudden uncertainty caused by something unexpected.

To share uncertainty makes it less threatening although the situation itself has not changed. It only becomes more bearable to the individual. Therein lays one of the main qualities of religion and its humanizing and socializing value. Pretty much every religion contains a large variety of rules and values which are supposed to control and enable a healthy social interaction. While today we mostly see religion and its social rules as boundaries we want to free ourselves from, we have actually forgotten why those have been set up in the first place. While we have started to overidealize individuality we have unlearned to form stable relationships which can resist the omnipresent threat of total randomness.

Relationships always require a sacrifice of individuality and personal freedom of course but on the other hand they also offer a reduction of uncertainty and its child fear. So instead  of stumbling into histrionic relationships of mutual abuse and compulsive control in order to desperately protect our “freedom” we could start building relationships based on mutual “awe” which is basically nothing less than mutual respect. Respect for individuality, respect for personal needs, respect for personal freedom, respect for what is not and not supposed to be controllable in your fellow human beings.

The necessity of trust

In order to respect the uncontrollable in your fellow human beings a global sphere of trust is required. This trust is rooted in a perceivable order which in a Kemetic context is named the order of Ma’at. The task of the king was to maintain this order on a social level and therefore protect and garantuee the spere of trust. As an individual you need to be able to trust in the fact that the uncontrollable in your fellow human is not going to harm you. You need to be able to trust that everyone is willing to voluntarily control himself for a functioning and stable community everyone is part of or even “a greater good” which may of course be a divine force or a divine order – in other words: Ma’at.

If I was to make a wish it would be that people allow themselves and each other to feel awe without being ridiculed because it is “unscientific”. Awe towards something divine and also towards each other. Awe instead of fear and uncertainty. Awe instead of aiming to rule out the uncontrollable in each other. I think in this way relationships can actually make you free. More free than you could ever be all by yourself.

This entry was posted in Über den Tellerand • Over the plate rim, English and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s