Making Peace with What We Don’t (and May Never) Know
Over the past century humanity made huge progress in science and exploration. We managed to eradicate certain diseases and improved the quality of life many times over. We have rovers and spacecraft roaming the cosmos and satellites connecting us all over the globe.
Yet the fundamental questions that have intrigued scientists and philosophers alike remain unanswered—with absolute certainty.
Our curiosity and the desire to make sense of our existence have led us to amazing discoveries and advancements. And it seems the more we uncover, the more we realize there is more … and more.
Today I invite you to suspend your beliefs and assumptions and join me when contemplating the issues listed below with a couple of questions in mind:
- What would happen if I never knew the answers to these questions?
- How is my life going to be any different starting today?
My intention is not to challenge anyone’s faith. But to explore what would happen if we didn’t have certainty or faith. This is a dialogue about the possibility of not knowing anything for sure—in the absence of faith.
Most of the questions that arise for me can be classified under one of the following three categories. Feel free to add more as you go along.
Life, creation, purpose, and meaning
These are the existential questions that we’ve been trying to answer for millennia:
- What is life exactly? Where does life begin?
- Is there a god (or one creator)? Where does god reside?
- Why are we here? What’s the purpose of life?
- I’m one of billions living on a tiny planet orbiting an average star. Do I matter?
- What happens to us after we die? Is there life after death?
And more questions come from science that I don’t think we have absolute answers for:
- Where did the singularity that started the big bang come from?
- Why do we have four types of energy only?
- Why are the nuclear forces and electromagnetic energy constant but gravity is weaker on earth?
- What is this reality? Is it the only one or are there alternate realities and universes based on different probabilities and choices?
- Are there other intelligent life forms out there?
These are just a few of the questions that I can think of right now. When it comes to life and creation, we’ve learned so much about the cosmos. But we realize that we still have a long way to go. We’re only starting.
Free will, choice, and destiny
It gets a bit more personal when we start thinking of things that can impact our lives. Questions like:
- When am I going to die? Is it at a preset point in time that cannot be changed? Or
- Can I change my destiny by making different choices?
- Is my life governed more by biology and chance or by a divine plan?
- What is truly under my control?
We have not been able to completely figure out what actions and results we can control.
Human nature, behavior, and outcomes
We are tribal and social beings. From a young age we’re conditioned to try and get along with others and adapt to societal norms. Yet we don’t live in harmonious societies. We have crimes and violence, the need for policing and strict laws that govern how we should behave.
We do so many things that would baffle an outside observant. We’re willing to sacrifice our lives to save someone’s life, and we’re capable of the most heinous acts of cruelty—and everything in between.
Here are some of the questions I can think of:
- Why bad things happen to good people? Like losing a loved one, serious illness, losing a job, car crashes, and wars. Is it random?
- Why some people get punished for minor infractions and others commit bigger and more harmful acts and get away with it?
- Why do people do what they do? Some normal people turn into monsters in times of war and commit horrific acts of violence. Others take the route of forgiveness and turn the other cheek. Why?
- Can we truly know ourselves? And can we completely know others?
- Two people can have the same abilities, do the same work, but one succeeds and the other doesn’t? Is it luck? Mindset? Or destiny?
- Why do we still have poverty, violence, wars, and crimes? Are such challenges part of the human condition? Or are they paving the road of growth and evolution?
We have some understanding of human nature, but I don’t think anyone can truly predict what someone would do (or is capable of doing) with certainty. We can look at past behavior, assess personality traits, look into family history and biology, and examine someone’s environment. But we can’t know for sure.
We know that we can’t know for sure why we’re here or why things unfold the way they do. So the question is: Do we struggle with not knowing and continue seeking validation? Or do we accept that we don’t know and move on?
Accepting that we may never know is a more comforting choice than fearing the unknown. We can fear it all we want, but that’s not going to change a thing.
Accepting the unknown and our current limitations doesn’t mean giving up on life—far from it. With acceptance, we embrace the most elemental part of life—mystery.
The questions remain important, and humanity is not going to give up its collective curiosity and will continue its search for answers. In the meantime we can go on with our daily lives without knowing the outcome.
It doesn’t matter what the purpose of life is when we breathe, eat or drink, pursue work we enjoy, play with a child, connect with a friend or love with all our hearts.
It doesn’t matter when we’re going to die when we get lost in a musical composition or a work of art that suspends time and transports us to a magical world, where beauty and humanity intertwine in a creative dance like no other.
It doesn’t matter when tragedy strikes whether it’s a test or a random event. We can handle it, just like we handled the one before. And if that’s not enough, we can be comforted by one thing we know for sure—nothing lasts forever and this too will pass.
We can be scared or we can be intrigued. The choice is ours in this case.
While we attempt to find answers and make sense of creation and existence, we can play and embrace the magic in this life the best way we know how. Maybe not knowing is part of the journey that keeps us open to possibilities.