by Chimanda Ngozi Adiche
“The more she wrote, the less sure she became.”
I used to think I had to wait until I was certain about something before committing ideas to print and sharing them. What’s become more clear as I start looking over my shoulder at 50 is that my uncertainty is one element that links me to my readers, to humanity itself. In a world full of icons, idols, avatars, and virtual relationships, the need we all have to process our journey collectively and figure things out together is largely unmet.
Camu and other existentialists noted our alienation several decades ago, and it has only become more pronounced as we’ve isolated and anesthetized ourselves with the latest and greatest tech toys, sporting events, mind altering substances and corporate rat races. We all need to connect and process our uncertainties, and definitely to question any certainties we think we have. Those conversations that are begun virtually must operationalize IRL or they are simply digital flotsam…the detritus of our broken relationships.
One source of my perpetual uncertainty is the shere size and scope of the inequities and injustices I see in our world. I see those inequities and injustices in every nook and cranny of my virtual and corporeal life. Yet, if the outrage I post over the plight of any group of “others” doesn’t turn into action to improve their (our) plight, then my words are nothing but noise. While I’m no closer to solving the tidal wave of inequities and injustices I see, I have learned that together we can improve so much more than we can when working alone…and we can make those improvements amidst our uncertainties and confusion about next steps or the bigger picture. We don’t need to wait for certainty in order to share ideas and actions that will lead to a better reality. Reading Mother Theresa’s biography taught me that while I may not be able to do any “great things,” I can do small things with “great love.”
Boomers, X’ers, and Millennials can act together without a certain, grand plan or identical ideologies. Food banks, lunches in the parks, shelter support, volunteer tutoring, toy drives, political activism are all IRL venues for acting on our sense of wrongness in the world around us, and are places for connecting and figuring things out together. Small positive actions taken by many make for improved collective and individual realities. While sorting food from the annual postal food drive, I pick up a tip about a new parental controls software, and my teens pick up some ideas about making varsity in their chosen sport and managing dating in high school. All the while food is sorted, boxed and delivered to the local food bank. None of these benefits require us to resolve our conservative verses liberal politics, nor to have a financial plan for the federal government to resolve the widening income inequities in the U.S., nor did we have to provide immediate solutions for global warming. The people we work with during our food drive are not our most intimate friends or family, yet they enrich us as we do them – and empty bellies get filled.
I’m not any more certain about what I need to write than I was a decade ago, but at least now I’m making more of a difference while I ponder those ideas I’d like to put into print.