Getting it sorted!
Updated: Jan 25, 2020
When parents disagree, their children are often distressed. And when ‘our’ adult groups have internal differences, we can be confused. When political leaders show uncertainty about their strategies and goals for our country, we are disturbed. When our lives are turned upside down by changes around us, we just want to ‘get things sorted’ We are impatient to ‘have things clear’.
The dither in the UK since the referendum in 2016 has made people increasingly impatient with the various expressions of national uncertainty – especially in parliament. We were told during the campaign that ‘business hates uncertainty’ because it undermines investor confidence. In this election maybe more than usual, people have voted for some certainty in life, for a well-defined direction for the future of the country and their future in it. They seek a clear shape and profile for their lives and their country. And at least some of the people to whom we spoke to today think that, in this election, we have now found it. Two or three people said to us this morning, ‘At least we’ve got it done now!’ Really?
Being confronted with our need for certainty is useful. It prompts us to ask ourselves about the sources of any certainty we might think we have. Some of us clearly derive certainty from by belonging to a nation with a proud history and long traditions. For others certainties are derived from family traditions and values. Still others find their security in belonging to a particular faith or football team!
While all these groups can be helpful something else lies at the root. Certainty, security, identity are all at base matters of individual choice. In our individualist age, we like to think that we are individually self-defining but such independence is a myth. Each of us trusts in some basic things to carry us through - maybe money, or health or personality or intelligence? And each of us makes choices about the groups we choose to belong to. Each of us chooses to look to particular authorities for guidance in the choices that we make.
The task of making these choices and the business of integrating all our external realities into our everyday lives belongs to each one of us. Taking responsibility for the choices that we make as individuals while relating genuinely to the communities of which we choose to be a part is an important balance to strike. All of us face twin challenges. On the one hand we must avoid the temptation to retreat into a private world of certainties. Alternatively we must avoid abdicating responsibility and choosing a so-called ‘strong man’ to do our thinking for us and provide us with certainty and identity.
In a world where the environmental emergency becomes greater daily, where strong political and commercial forces seek to shape individuals to their own ends, where technological change proceeds at breakneck speed, it is easy to become bewildered and run to the nearest voice of certainty. We can counter this first by recognising that the search for certainty is a wild goose chase. And then by thinking our own thoughts, building mutual relationships of trust, and seeking external wisdom wherever we can find it. In a world where change is the only certainty, together we can build strong and open communities of diverse thoughtful individuals. We can build strong communities - neighbourhoods, villages, towns, teams, families and churches. It’s a project crucial to our personal flourishing and worthy of our best efforts.