A tale of two certainties

Published 10:25 pm Thursday, December 16, 2010

As a journalist, it makes sense to hold a belief in certainty.

jessicaWe’re supposed to seek out the truth and accuracy of every story we tell and even if we get it wrong from time to time, the essential truth of a story is always present.

So even when we’re wrong we’re right.

Certainty is comfortable.

It’s reliant. Anything we can say with certainty makes us feel better because there is no doubt. And doubt is shifty and sketchy and unpredictable.

And who wants that?

So we search for certainty in everything.

In our  jobs, in our relationships, in our faith and even our finances.

Lately, though, it seems that if there’s anything to be learned by observing other people’s stories, it’s that nothing is really certain.

The jobs that were secure suddenly aren’t; the things you loved once upon a time, you suddenly don’t; the people you believed in no longer fight for the causes you’d hoped they would; the people you thought you knew, you suddenly don’t.

And it seems all shifty and sketchy and unpredictable.

And who wants that?

But maybe it’s not so bad that nothing is certain.

Because then when we are faced with challenges, when we’re faced with the dark places and the scary places, we can take comfort in knowing — they’re not certain, either.

No one is certainly lost, nothing is certainly over, possibility always remains.

And if in all of our troubles there is even a mustard seed of possibility, I’m certainly not complaining.

As I pondered over this thought in my mind, I applied it to an event this week that saddened my heart a little — the passing of Elizabeth Edwards, at the age of 61.

Certainty played a role in her life as well. When she informed the public of her cancer diagnosis we all thought certainly she and her husband would end his bid for presidency. But they didn’t.

Then we thought certainly it couldn’t be true that such a public figure with such a horrible disease would befall the fate of being betrayed and hurt in such a cruel way. But she was.

For anyone watching the private life of hers unfold, it seemed as though certainly it couldn’t get worse.

But it did.

And then when the speculation and the tabloid-zation of her life died down, it seemed as though certainly hers would be a triumphant ending.

Certainly the disease would retreat from such a resilient and graceful character.

But it didn’t.

A triumphant ending it was, as the inspiration she gave to many will endure, but certainly not what we were certain it was going to be.

Shifty, sketchy and unpredictable, uncertainty tries to be.

But really, it’s just a cloak for hope.

And that is no small feat.

Jessica Sieff reports for Leader Publications. Reach her at jessica.sieff@leaderpub.com.