storm-over-albeguerque.jpg“These uncertain times…” It’s hard to go through the day and not see or hear the use of this phrase. But what does it really mean?

What is being described as our modern state is really the norm. We are surrounded by uncertainty all the time.

I heard an authoritative radio voice usher the phrase three times today.  “In these uncertain times, it’s important to find a lawyer you can trust.”  Well, this had me spitting out my coffee in laughter. 

A little while later, it was, “Are you looking for a safe place to invest your money, in these uncertain times?”  to which I replied, “What money?” 

And finally there was this one: “These uncertain times call for a broker you can trust.”  Well, let me tell you, I was over the top albeit somewhat fearful that the ad might end with, “…brought to you by the good people at Merrill Lynch.”

It got me thinking though. If these times are uncertain, exactly when will we have certain times?  I mean, is it what we had before this latest economic meltdown? I suggest otherwise. The fact is, we have very little certainty about anything in life, at any time.

Certainty in the market place? I think not. Stocks will forever rise, and fall, and rise, and fall.  Even the most trusted and sought-after financier can make “mistakes.” Today’s gold mine becomes  tomorrow’s sinkhole. It doesn’t matter if it’s your favorite uncle who’s “never made a bad investment in my life” telling you that there is only one way that stock is going to go, or the love of your life saying that he/she will always be at your side, there is absolutely no guarantee that your “investment” will grow, much less grow indefinitely. There’s just too many variables, in the market place, in love, in life.

What can we really count on then? “Expert” advice? Not always. That our e-mail addresses won’t find their way into the wrong hands?  Nope. That stock market projections will come true? No more than the latest weather report (and I’d rather bet on the latter).  The only place where we can feel absolutely, without any shadow of doubt,100 percent dead certain, is that we will be just that one day: dead.  Now stick with me, because there is an upside to this. 

If certainty of death is all that we really know, then what do we live for? My answer is this: Everything that we don’t know.

Life is full of uncertainty. Every time you walk out the door, you don’t know what may be lurking around the corner, your worst nightmare, or your most exquisite fantasy come to life (tip: focus on the fantasy).  Getting married is a risky venture, much like going into business, even with someone that you’d trust your life with. You just don’t know what will ultimately come of it. Does this mean we should retreat like turtles back into our shells, until the risk has passed? Not at all. I think where we often go wrong, like so many “investors” did over this last rosy economic stretch, is believing that the good times will never end. Well, to quote a good candidate for a front row seat at the Hague, “stuff happens.” It sure does: people lie,  iPods break, and water can indeed run uphill (because I’ve seen it). There is very little certainty in life, period. Forgive me if I’m belaboring the point.

Now I did say that there’d be an upside to this, and it is coming. So what can we count on, besides our impending demise?  How about this: change. It’s happening all the time, and not just “out there”. You are change. I am change.  We are life, and life is all about change. There is just no way around it. Sure, we may think that we can avoid it, that if we hide out in our fears long enough, it will pass and we can be safely certain again. But that’s another mistake we make, putting off living until it’s safe. 

So, how do we make life work for us, especially in (and it really works best if you say this in a very deep and serious voice), “these uncertain times”?  By embracing change, by hearing those fear-mongering ads about uncertainty in the marketplace and saying, “bring it on.” By not buying into their message that we have to pull in, that risk is something we can avoid, that “certain times” will return. The greatest moments in life often come with the least amount of certainty.  Live now. Live fully. Live fearlessly.

Nothing stays the same for long. Technologies, the economy, our interests, our bodies… they are all temporary. I know that when I am resisting change, I struggle. The trick is to accept it, learn what I can, and let it go, because something else is always coming, that much I know. And I like to believe that the best is yet to come.

Besides the fact that change is constant, we can always count on our innate intelligence and the truth of who we are, waiting in our hearts. We all can find certainty in our true selves, in what we long for, and in what brings us joy.  

Kate Wolf used to sing, “Find something you really care about, and live a life that shows it.” I think that’s great advice. So fall in love, say “I do,” start that business, look to see what’s missing in your community and do something about it, say “yes, please” or “no, thanks” and hang on for the ride. Discover certainty in all of the uncertainty. Throw both hands in the air, with foot off the brake yelling “Yippee” as you ride this ultimate roller coaster called LIFE.


Patrick Thrift lives in Vancouver, B.C., with his two very tall teenage sons, mountains out the back, the Pacific out front, and inspiration everywhere in between.  His essays have appeared in RAIN Zine (Radical Art in Nature), the Georgia Straight, and other west coast publications.


  1. It is true. I focus on the good in my life, what next small step can I take, what kind world can I speak, what lesson can I share when I feel the cultural fear creeping in. It is not the big things that have changed my life so much as the small gestures each day that have made a diffeence. Good reminder. Thank you.

  2. Well said, Patrick! May I add that accepting this fact, and doing the best we can with the knowledge and resources we have, is a wise route to follow which will help us as individuals, as communities, and on a global scale.

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