Making Peace with the Black Holes of Uncertainty: “That’s a Good One”

Every classroom I’ve had the honor to teach in has been a black hole for the Internet.  I ask my colleagues if they’re having problems with the internet? “Nope.” Look to the left of my classroom and to the right. “Problems?” “Problems?” “Nope.” “Nope.”

My tech friend just scratches his head, befuddled by why this is the case. There must be about 30 classrooms, and I get the one with the black hole. I don’t know if it’s my magnetic aura or the devil of technology who is trying to teach me a lesson.  I’m pretty sure my aura is not the problem, so it has to be a devilish angel. Anyway, this “dark angel” creeps up on me and reminds me that technology, which is supposed to aid humans and make life easier, is one of the most-dastardly pranksters this teacher has ever encountered.

When I need technology to work, it works its magic on falling into a deep trance and taking a nap — out of commission.  I’m telling you, this happens to me. Ask my students, it’s the biggest excuse for not turning work in to me.  “The guy doesn’t know how to work that wireless network.”

I talked with our tech guy, and he had a talk with his Software.  He got it to agree to not screw with me every day. He asked it to screw around with me every eight days instead.  Why eight? I have no fathomable idea. Eight it is, though. I’ve lost track because it chose to take a nap on the sixth day and that was five days ago. When I told the tech guy to ask him to have another conversation with his friend about staying awake in my class, Software laughed.  It just couldn’t bring itself to abide by its original agreement. I guess it had too much fun watching me get annoyed.

A teacher friend told me to turn the computer off and turn it on again. That used to do the trick now and then, but technology wasn’t having any fun after a while. It wanted me to resuscitate it by pounding the life back into it. I used to get mad at technology, but my tech friend said, “You have to act as if it is not going to work. That’s the only way it will.”  That’s great advice. In other words, don’t let technology get the better of you.  Accept that it’s NOT going to work and when it does, you will feel gushy inside.

This must be what Dr. Seyyed Hossein Nasr was talking about when he said, “The Sufis tell us to embrace the whole of the dark in life.” We live in a world of light and this winter season reminds us that the longest days of the year will still provide tremendous light for us all – or at least the light we need to fight through it. Our ability to embrace the dark is the one thing that makes the difference in life.

Taoists believe this, too. The blasted “yin” part of the yin yang symbol is the darkness which embraces the unknown. It identifies the necessity for chaos in the universe in helping us to re-order. The yin tells us that the decadence of understanding can only muster so much in this short life we live, and we must embrace the unknown with loving, unconditional acceptance and gracious hopefulness.

It’s not always easy. In fact, frustration has a way of teaching us about ourselves. It forces our hand at evaluating how ridiculous life can be and teaches us to reclaim reason and order our faculties about what’s most important. 

What is reasonable is that life is not always going to give us what we want. Life is not always going to be tidy or “turn on” to what we need at the click of a button. It’s going to force our hand at re-evaluating why we’re annoyed. It’s going to make us learn the lesson of patience and persistence in understanding one way or another. It’s going to teach us that sometimes we have to rely on good old fashioned common sense and practical lessons that don’t involve a video or spectacular amusing game to teach the lesson. Sometimes it’s talking it out and working through by sharing a conversation with others about why we’re annoyed.

The black holes in life are real. Scientists like Stephen Hawking made a career out of calculating where they are and why they exist. Some of the answers have black holes of their own, prompting more questions. At one point in our lives, we are all going to enter that black hole that will have us pulling out our hair, shaking our fists and screaming for the insanity of uncertainty to give us the answer and lead us on a path to certainty to make it easier on us.

We cannot avoid them. There is a reason for them, there is a place for them. Damned if we’ll ever fully figure out what that place is. I’ll leave that to the scientists.

The peace I’ve made with my black holes is the fact that something tangible grounds me. It tells me that I’ve ducked inside out of the rain of uncertainty and found a place of comfort, warmth and peace, and I’ll locate that place within myself again. It’s like constantly losing your car keys.  You need to find a place to put them on a regular basis. Discipline yourself to put them there and you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble. 

I guess that’s why I pray, meditate, and write. “It’s a place to go where I put my keys to life.” The black hole is bound to re-emerge. I’ll just keep my head about me and make peace with my computer friend and the amusing devilish pranks it plays and say, “That’s good one.”

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