"We are wired from birth to want answers and hard data.  Uncertainty is okay, as long as it exists in someone else's life or we don't have to do anything about it.  But as soon as we're challenged to own it and then act in the face of it, with rare exceptions we run from it.  Because running at it terrifies us.  We're scared of the discomfort that comes with opening doors without knowing what's behind them.  Scared of being judged if it's a monster.  Scared of having to pick up the pieces and rebuild if we go to zero.  Even scared of hitting the jackpot.  And beyond the fear, we just plain hate the persistent anxiety that rides along with continually leaning into the unknown.  Without intervention, we experience it as anywhere from discomfort to outright suffering.

"The problem is, if you strive to create anything--be it a book, a business, a blog, a collection, a body of work, or a career that is defined by brilliance--uncertainty, risk of loss, and exposure to judgment are necessary parts of the quest.  They'll ebb and flow and move toward certainty as each project or new endeavor takes shape.

"But even then, in [the] larger context of the creative life, each end signals a new beginning.  And with each new beginning, should you continue to choose the path of innovation, growth, and impact, comes a renewed wave of uncertainty, risk, and exposure.  It never really entirely ends...until you end."

--Jonathan Fields, Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance (New York: Portfolio/Penguin, 2011), chapter 10.

"The struggles against temptations of all kinds fill the Sayings [of the Desert Fathers] and represent the most persistent, enduring challenge to the monks' freedom.  These temptations run the gamut, from the baser enticements of gluttony and impurity to the subtler though ultimately more dangerous traps posed by anger and pride.  At root, all of these temptations created the same problem: they drove a rift between the monk and God, leaving the monk feeling isolated and powerless.  In these circumstances, it became increasingly difficult for the monk to believe that help was near at hand and led to the common but deeply troubling anxiety that he would likely be overwhelmed by his temptation.  The Gospel text calling for refraining from anxiety served as an important reminder for those beset with this particular worry that they were indeed not cut off from help.  Abba Poemen was asked for whom this saying--'Do not be anxious about tomorrow (Mt 6:34)' was suitable.  The old man replied, 'It is said for the man who is tempted and has not much strength, so that he should not be worried, saying to himself, "How long must I suffer this temptation?"  He should rather say every day to himself, "Today."'  Freedom from care in this sense meant taking to heart God's presence and care each day."

--Douglas Burton-Christie, The Word in the Desert: Scripture and the Quest for Holiness in Early Christian Monasticism (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), pp. 222-23.


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