When I stumble across art that I love, I want to know everything about it. I'm not going to wax nostalgic about poring over CD liner notes because who wants to hear that and besides CD liner notes were pretty shitty compared to the kind of "relationships" we can have to our favorite artists today and besides if I am going to invoke fake nostalgia I should use LP instead of CD although LPs were before my time. That's how not old I am.
I'm going to share some background info on The Beauty of Certainty. Some of you might find it interesting. If you don't enjoy it, then go read one of those manipulative click bait listicles on Upworthy that I won't even justify with a hyperlink. Are you gone? Ok cool.
Of course there is the whole other argument that you are supposed to let the art speak for itself and be all cool and minimalist when it comes to the project and sure that is fine, but I am thinking about this stuff and it is interesting to me and isn't that what the long tail is all about, doing things that are interesting to you?
The brilliant Joe Peeler suggested The Beauty of Certainty as the title for this project. We were midway through editing, and my working title was Life Expectancy. I thought this was a clever pun, i.e., Brian is talking about how long he has to live, and Brian is also someone that expects a lot from life - he expects life to be meaningful and profound and maybe even magical.
During the editing process I shared a piece of Brian's writing called The Beauty of Uncertainty with Joe. It is reprinted below. It was an editorial Brian had written for Hobo Magazine while he was the associate editor there (2002-2007, 2009-2012). It was a seminal and influential piece that readers really responded to as a kind of mantra. Search for the title online and you will see the evidence.
Brian uses an elliptical, stream-of-consciousness writing style in the piece, which makes it difficult to easily summarize, but in effect the message seems to be that happiness can only be found by embracing the uncertainty of life. This is the foundation of many philosophical and spiritual practices - learning that you are not in control, so you can either hate that, bear that, or embrace that.
The title of this project, then, is kind of a reaction to that philosophy. Or perhaps a logical extension of it. Only one thing is certain: death. There is a certain kind of clarity, insight, and truth in accepting or embracing that certainty, as we see Brian attempting to do in the documentary.
The Beauty Of Uncertainty
People with missing children. Children without parents. People without food or water. There are many who are destroyed by not knowing what the future holds. For those of us more fortunate, the beauty of uncertainty is that it motivates us to seek certainty. We are compelled to replace doubt with conviction, to replace confusion with clarity, to be more fearful of old ideas instead of new ones.
Nothing is more disparaged than the person who is lost, hesitant, and anxious. Yet the true path to fulfillment comes from these conditions. Uncertainty becomes truly beautiful when connected with the certainty that there is a better life beyond the life that is known. The artist, scientist, entrepreneur, athlete, and traveller: all embrace uncertainty as their muse. What is going to happen next is more enticing than what is happening now. The thrill of anticipation, the mystery of the unknown, the open road, mistakes as portals of discovery, the inevitability of change, purpose from chaos, questions leading to answers, failure as the threshold of knowledge. All of these conditions inform the life of the adventurer, the human being who is engaged in becoming. The beauty of uncertainty is that it prepares us to embrace life in the face of death. Allows us the strength to deal with the freedom to choose. To willingly exchange the fear of uncertainty for the security of certainty is to admit defeat. To surrender to the fear of actually living your life. As T. S Eliot observed, “Where is the life we have lost in living?” Nothing moves forward except by the craving to seek certainty from uncertainty.
We are prone to fear. The world is a mass of confusion. Traditions are ridiculed. Mythologies are forgotten. True freedom is a curse. Natural disasters are unnaturally common. Celebrities have replaced heroes. Ideals have been replaced by images. Many are running scared and only too willing to embrace the forces that offer a respite from the winds of change. What can we believe in? God, country, ourselves? What can we be certain about? Death, decay, oppression? What are we willing to risk, defend, support and dream? What would we like to be certain of: life span, love life, finances, and security? Can we gain anything without giving something up? Is there faith without risk? If you knew without question what was going to happen next, would there be any real satisfaction in it happening? The greater the risk, the greater the faith. Embracing uncertainty is to say yes to life: to say yes to the death and destruction, the success and failure, the tragedy and the triumph. Lord Byron said that the great art of life is sensation, to feel that we exist, even in pain. The beauty of uncertainty is that it allows us to overcome our fear. It allows us to take risks so we can experience faith. A life without uncertainty is the end of the imagination; the death of the imagined; the negation of faith.
Why are the least informed so certain and the thinkers so full of doubt? Our culture is a business and we are the shareholders. We strive to maximize our profits, to eliminate ambiguity in favour of certainty. What is the film we all want to see, what is the book we all want to read, who is the icon we all want to emulate? How can we be different yet all be the same? Amuse us. Distract us. Assure us. Guide us. Tell us what to do and how to do it. Let Martha Stewart design our kitchen, Dr. Phil will raise our kids, Dreamworks will provide our narratives, and ad execs will supply our thoughts. Where can we even find true ambiguity in a world of invented certainty? Who’s dreams are we dreaming? We travel to experience ambiguity. To remind ourselves of the diversity of landscape and the spontaneity of existence. To feel the sheer exhilaration of a new experience. To remind ourselves of the endless possibilities that our lives consist of. The journey we are on is fraught with difficulty. No one here gets out alive. We are constantly challenged to perform, to succeed, to overcome our difficulties and win the race. We come to realize that performance itself answers the challenge. That life is ultimately defined by our difficulties. The race is won in the opportunity to run it. The beauty of uncertainty is that it is ambiguous and ambiguity encourages us to create, search, explore, and to travel. As one of us once said, “When you are tired of change, you are weary of life itself.”
The world has never been more chaotic despite assurances that the situation is under control. The only thing under control is the manipulation of perception. Global warming is a scare tactic. None of George’s friends are getting rich from Middle East oil. Freedom is America’s greatest export. Baghdad will get its Disneyworld. Let’s not quibble over details like weapons of mass destruction. Osama Bin Laden? Axis Of Evil? Crusades? The American Presidential election was a victory of certainty over uncertainty. Tell us what we want to hear and we will follow you. The message was there is little beauty in uncertainty. That uncertainty is ugly, and dangerous, and destructive. We must have resolve. We must kill or be killed. You are either with us or against us. Confusion is a luxury we can’t afford. The religious right is never wrong. Give us your fear of the unknown and we will turn it into the security of the known. Go back to sleep where you will be safe under the intoxication of your agreeable illusions. If you shine a flashlight in a dark room there is light everywhere the flashlight is pointed. We live in a world wherein we are compelled to follow whoever is handling the flashlight. We ignore the reality of the darkness that exists wherever the light is absent. The darkness is the uncertainty and the light is the beauty that helps us overcome it. But we need to hold the flashlight ourselves and recognize that the darkness exists. The people who are selling us certainty can indeed be wrong. As Goethe said, “When ideas fail, words take over.” The beauty of uncertainty is it allows ideas to cultivate and grow and hopefully transcend the tyranny of the untested word.
The recent tsunamis in the Indian Ocean. Thousands killed, millions displaced. Entire villages gone forever. Unparalleled uncertainty. Where is the beauty to be found here? How limited our vocabulary becomes when confronted with the often devastating forces of nature. All perspective is lost. Better to remain mute than to scream obscenities at the storm. But perhaps the beauty is to be found in the stories of the survivors? In the stories of people helping people. The rich helping the poor. Christians embracing Muslims. Warships dispensing medicine instead of missiles. Already we have witnessed one of the most humane and heroic aid operations in world history. Unprecedented acts of compassion and generosity. Combatants have paused in their battlefields to reflect on their own inadequacy in killing fellow human beings in comparison to this subtle shift of the earth’s weight. Will this holocaust of uncertainty lead to the resolve necessary to eliminate the disparity between the first world and the third? Will we gain the wisdom necessary to create a future rather than add to the destruction? Hopefully we will stay reminded of how fragile life can be. Learn to appreciate what we have, instead of what we think we need. Realize we are all in this together. Recognize the unparalleled beauty that comes out of unparalleled devastation. Our thoughts and tears go out to those who have lost everything and everyone. There is no one to blame. We can only accept the uncertainty and continue on.
Living with uncertainty. Who reads us? What do we have to say? Why are we compelled to say it? Who is willing to advertise with us? Who wants to come on board and travel with us into the future? What makes us think the world needs another magazine and are we even a magazine? William Blake said, “If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise.” Let’s hope so. We venture into 2005 with the hope that Oscar Wilde was just being facetious when he observed that it is better to have a permanent income than to be fascinating. We have gathered some writers, photographers, thespians, models, artists, thinkers, and people of the planet who have contributed to and therefore have an understanding of the beauty of uncertainty. We welcome the chameleon prowess of actress Naomi Watts. We revisit the diverse film worlds of “Barfly” and Jean Luc Godard’s “Notre Musique”. We travel to the realm of the grizzly bear and the enigmatic landscapes within Ibiza and Japan. World music is celebrated with profiles of Feist, John Frusciante, and Donovan Frankenreiter. The life of the artist is appreciated through encounters with Seu Jorge and Joana Preiss. Fashion takes us to the west coast of British Columbia. Hobo continues to travel to mapped regions of the known world in pursuit of evidence that curiosity will conquer fear as much as courage will. We venture into unrecorded areas of the imaginary world to ascertain that life isn’t about finding yourself - life is about creating yourself. We don’t want to live in a world that is so small we can comprehend it. We collectively welcome you to the magic of the mysterious and the infinity of the unknown.
Follow your bliss. Imagine. Seek the high road. Know thyself. Embrace the earth. Stay awake. Hobo welcomes you to the journey and to the beauty of uncertainty.