Uncertainty (Joel Q.)
The future is full of uncertainty. I have studied both law and natural systems and think often about the limits of what society will tolerate, of physics, of our biology. Given this preparation, my career will involve working with a series of uncertain outcomes. Whatever predictability once existed in natural systems (a limited amount to be sure) has been dramatically reduced by our recent activity on Earth. We are changing the climate, reducing habitat for other life forms, and generally carving the world up based on who can make the most money from a particular use of particular area at any given time. As for the law, if the law is clear there is no work to be done. Only when no one knows how the law applies to a situation do we need a judge to decide this on behalf of society.
For natural systems to provide for everyone, including other creatures, we have to know what we are doing and take care. To keep people from harming each other, there must be clear rules that even the wealthiest and most powerful are held to. It is not certain that we as a society will choose to be just or responsible or intelligent. But we each have that capacity.
Buddhism, for me, is a wellspring of hope. It would be depressing, I think, if only certain people could be enlightened. But everyone, each of you, all sentient beings have that capacity. Each mind is luminous compassion and wisdom behind a swirling cloud of confusion. All the politicians, all the children, all the kittens, all the criminals, all the drivers on the road, everyone has a mind that, beneath confusion, is the Buddha. I am comfortable with uncertainty because we go forward together and many beside me may well be more enlightened than I am already.
[JOEL tells us: I recently graduated from law school and live in the Boston area. My intellectual interest is how our social systems operate and interact with other natural systems. I’m working toward a world full of healthy humans and environments. I do Buddhist practices in the Drikung Kagyu tradition.]