The Arrogance of Certainty (Or, How to Wake Up the Soul)

A classmate of my daughter passed out pamphlets on his religious belief at the school’s entrance. (It’s a public school). He is fifteen years old. Every chance he gets, he talks about Jesus. At first I wasn’t sure what bothered me (the most), pushing his religion on others or his arrogance. (It doesn’t help that he is exceptional at everything and likely to be voted as best of something.) Of course, arrogance and forcing our ideas on others go hand in hand.

Recently an angry atheist called me a stupid, boring c***  during  my first (and last) twitter debate about spirituality. When I shared my view that we all come from the same cosmic soup and will all return to it, the name-calling began. I may have quoted the poet and novelist Gretel Ehrlich in my attempt to find a common ground:

“Sacred or secular, what is the difference? If every atom inside our bodies was once a star, then it is all sacred and all secular at the same time.”


Ironically, the atheist comes across as being just as self-righteous and arrogant as the fifteen-year-old boy who was passing out the religious pamphlets.

In our certainty we become blinded by our own arrogance and miss the diversity of experience available to us. If we could only let go of our certainty we could wake up to the tension and beauty of the moment. Letting go of certainty is edgy but it invites a much wider scope of possibility and experience. As I wrote this article I watched, out my window, at this spring’s arrival of sand hill cranes. I thought about faith and how it shows up in the natural world. There is no certainty in the natural world, but it doesn’t “worry” about the future or the afterlife. However, each year I see the cranes expressing their faith as they return to the pond to nest and to raise their young. Given Nature’s constant cycle of life and death, it is the ultimate expression of faith.

Faith is a good thing—because it encourages one to open up and be vulnerable to the greater mysteries of the unknown and of the uncertain.

Letting go of our need to know, to convert others, or to be certain brings us into the present experience, whatever that may be. Alan Watts, in The Wisdom of Insecurity, said, “If we cling to belief in God, we cannot likewise have faith, since faith is not clinging but letting go.”  To read the rest of this article: Click Here.

(My class at Write-By-The-Lake through the UW-Madison, Continuing Studies this June is full.) But there are openings for writers and creative souls at the upcoming Spring Green School of the Arts this May: Writing From The Zero Point: The Transformative Power of Story.

If you are more interested in a one to one session feel free to email me for your free 20 minute phone consultation at


130 thoughts on “The Arrogance of Certainty (Or, How to Wake Up the Soul)

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