Swimming in Ambiguity

without a trace
“For in tremendous extremities human souls are like drowning men; well enough they know they are in peril; well enough they know the causes of that peril;–nevertheless, the sea is the sea, and these drowning men do drown.”
 ― Herman Melville, Pierre; or, The Ambiguities (1852)

Generally, it seems that people don’t handle ambiguity well – a call, maybe, to the tunnel vision that we unconsciously cling to like straw.

The ambiguity of our reality is perilous. We build ships of ways to live – philosophies, religions, bureaucracies, traditions – to ride upon the ambiguity of our world. It leaks through, and society has those at the pumps to try to keep it on the outside of the ship. Sometimes they’re lawyers, sometimes they’re educators, sometimes they’re even politicians – holding onto a way of life, trying to keep everything together even when the shoals drive toward us with a strong wind behind.

We like our society. Some of us like it more, some of us like it less, the degree is unimportant: We all resist understanding the ambiguity below the hull of the ships we sail in. We wish to understand the hull, the structures that we can understand, the things that we are used to. It is the fool who looks to dismantle the ship with no plan for that ambiguity.

Mutinies – revolutions of a minor sort – rarely take this into consideration. A revolution with no plan of the aftermath isn’t as much a revolution as a harsh criticism with no constructive plan for progress.

Then there are the people who unwittingly fall into the ambiguity, somehow not meeting the requirements of being on board that ship. Maybe they were thrown off, discarded into the ambiguity. The souls of society we cannot understand – the criminals, the insane, the misfits, the artists…

And then there are the people who manage to swim in that ambiguity, boarding different ships – strangers aboard that somehow get past an intruder alert. They come aboard maybe to explore, maybe from a respite from the ambiguity of the world underneath the hulls of these ships. They see, they meet – maybe they meet their fate involuntarily going overboard, maybe they voluntarily take a swim, and maybe they even stay because of the comfort of the lack of ambiguity they find aboard.

This is really our last realm of exploration. How we deal with the ambiguities. As the world changes faster and faster, the ships falter, the storms push them too and fro, and so many are left to swim in ambiguity. Some drown.

Some don’t.

 

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