Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What You Don't Know

A younger friend recently asked me to comment on the decade of a person's twenties, as of course I am an expert in such a topic. It got me to thinking that as life takes you on your journey there is simply so much you just don't know. As luck would have it, part of the beauty of life is finding knowledge, gaining experience, and growing into someone who is wiser than the younger version of yourself. Inevitably, we all learn some things the hard way, and that is not always beautiful. Eventually you find yourself in a place where you simply don't know what you don't know, and have the maturity to realize it.

When my mom last visited here in DC, we toured the National Geographic Museum to experience, what was well-documented and vividly retold, the story of two expeditions racing to be the first in history to reach the South Pole. Both teams made it there, but only one team made it home; the other team froze to death in the snow and ice. It was not a matter of courage or of determination, but rather a battle against the unknown. One team was better prepared.

As it turns out, life is a battle against the unknown. Variables are everywhere, and even some of the best plans fail. Friends will disappear. People will die. Politicians will disappoint. The company for which you toil will actively work against you. Terror will strike. Even God may say no to your prayers. What on earth can you count on? There is one certainty, aside of course from death and taxes, and that is uncertainty. The sooner we accept that, perhaps the better. This is not to say we give up, nor is it to say we should have no faith. On the contrary, uncertainty in the world is what gives us purpose in our ability not only as a variable, but in our ability to affect other variables (too algebraic?).

When we are young, we spend a lot of time seeing the world in the manner which it affects us. As we grow, we learn that we can and should actually work to affect the world. Throughout that path we grow from idealists to pragmatists. Martin Luther King, Jr. was an example of a man who not only had a dream, but acted on a purpose to attain an achievable peace. It is only through purpose that we navigate through this sea of uncertainty and only in our resolution that we find success. It takes a good bit of life to come to that understanding.

But, what do I know?

"Thy purpose firm is equal to the deed. Who does the best his circumstances allows, does well, acts nobly; angels could no more."

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