The American Taliban and its Specious Certainty

Certainty is scary. If there is any doubt, just look at the Taliban…or, if you dare, the Taliban’s proxy in our country, the Tea Party. T. S. Eliot once advised us to forego our certainties for a moment, to “live in the breakage, in the collapse of what was believed in as most certain and therefore the fittest for renunciation.” Eliot realized that it is always our assumptions that create our greatest griefs, individually and collectively. The tyranny of assumptions once gave us the flat earth, for example, and other iron-clad certainties such as the “fact” that women are best kept in the household, that blacks are inferior, that homosexuals are evil, and that the earth is just 6,000 years old. And “assumptions” burned a lot of “witches” at the stake and brutally killed a lot of “heathen” for not believing in the right god. And, I could go on and on…

Now, with this critical view of “certainty”, I am surely not saying that we should live our lives in an eternal flux, waking up each day to a completely confusing world of “non”-sense. To question every dimension of our experience, individually and collectively, can easily just be a narcissistic enterprise in navel-gazing. Those who are that existentially insecure, and fall into this trap, are going to have trouble functioning and, yes, at some point will merit the description, “nuts”! But it is important to recognize the “tyranny of assumptions” in our history, personally and collectively, and from time to time use God’s gift of reason, Shakespeare called it “the pauser reason,” to examine our heart and consider if we are “tyrannizing” with our assumptions somewhere in our life. And, the best place to start is always in our relationships to those closest to us for in our intimate relationships our “assumptions” most often come out to play. And political parties and their factions (conservative and liberal), religious groups, and all ideological belief systems need to do the same. And, “Why not?” What harm will it do?” What harm could come from occasionally looking at where our assumptions, our premises, lead us? Well, actually this can lead to great harm to the social cohesion of the group which is the reason that rarely are they given attention, especially with more conservative groups. And, marriages can be jeopardized too but not if each of the persons are willing to humble themselves and realize they need to embrace a paradigm shift and open their heart and mind a bit, making more room for their mate. (W. H. Auden posed the question, “Suppose we love not friends or wives, but certain patterns in our lives.”)

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