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Learning to live without certainties


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El Norte de Castilla, El Diario Montañés, El Día

Gerardo Castillo

Professor School of Education and Psychology

The recent major energy, health and political crises in the world are creating unprecedented social unrest and psychologically disturbing the most vulnerable people. Some examples: the Covid-19 pandemic with its successive variants and vaccines, the war in Ukraine, the fear of a third world war or the risk of a meteorite hitting the surface of the earth. I fear that we are not sufficiently prepared to live with this lack of certainty about what will happen in the future. To this is being added existential uncertainty, derived from a new skepticism that denies the existence of truth or the incapacity of human beings to know it if it exists.

The philosopher Javier Gomá writes that what defines the postmodern society in which we find ourselves is "the dissolution or, at least, the loss of importance of the frameworks of reference letter, guidelines or truths and the birth of a new paradigm in which the characteristic is that doubt is everywhere, tradition is sample in retreat and moral or scientific certainties have order their credibility".

For some people, the absence of certainties is unbearable; however, others take it as a challenge: they prefer to focus on the search for possible alternatives rather than to be anxious about an uncertain future. Facing an unknown world encourages us to bring out the best in ourselves. This is precisely one of the etymological meanings of the term "educate" (from educere: to extract, to bring out from the inside out). I agree with Pilar Llácer Centeno, a specialist in Business Ethics and Digital Transformation, that clinging to the past, to what is certain, is no longer sustainable, so we must learn to live without certainties. However, she says that what is common to all future jobs will be digital skills.

Certainty is a subjective conviction, while truth is a knowledge goal . To be certain of something is not always to be in the truth. Daniel Innerarity argues that the cultivation of uncertainty can be an unexpected factor of democratization: "Where our knowledge is incomplete, institutions and procedures that favor reflection, discussion, criticism, independent committee , reasoned argumentation and the competition of ideas and visions are more necessary".

The fear of the unknown will never disappear, although it is possible to control it and manage it better. But, will we be able to successfully carry out this management?; will this goal of learning to live without certainties be realistic? Those who say they are succeeding explain how: focus on what we can do and not on what is impossible; start with small things, taking small risks; live in the present, because speculating about what may happen in the future fosters anxiety. Never cross the bridge before reaching it.

We should not sugarcoat reality, but neither should we spread the virus of despair. Today, more than ever, we need to live with hope. Friedrich Nietzsche referred to it as the virtue of the weak; an unattainable desire of the dispossessed in the face of the power of others, a feeling of conforming to what society establishes without the possibility of change. But the virtue of hope is not that. Like any virtue, it tends to achieve the good. There is an active hope, which provides a way out of what we have. It is the one that impels us to think and act with a vision of the future. Barack Obama wrote a book with this degree scroll: "The audacity of hope". This audacity leads us to believe that a better world is possible.

It is necessary to educate in order to learn to live and navigate in a world, in a sea, lacking certainties. Without this attitude, the Spaniards would not have discovered America. This implies teaching how to manage the emotions generated by uncertainty. Currently, we have the resource of emotional intelligence. One of its competencies is the capacity for initiative. Daniel Goleman states that its essence is foresight and anticipation: "People with initiative avoid problems by anticipating them, and take advantage of opportunities before their competitors. On the other hand, people without initiative are always late, so they have to act under much worse conditions". Also financial aid exercise some adaptive attitudes, among them, curiosity or the desire to know more, after recognizing one's own ignorance following the Socratic example: "I only know that I know nothing". Humility or realism? Both, because, as Teresa of Jesus said, humility is truth.