The chance passing of a virus from an animal to a human has quickly brought uncertainty to humans all over the world. Many people, in our country and around the world, don’t know when they will work again. Don’t know if they can pay their rent. In the midst of this uncertainty, many are having to make decisions with huge implications for masses of people – people in government and business. Financial security has evaporated for many. Financial cushions are quickly dwindling. Front-line medical personnel face great uncertainty about their ability to have the resources to help the expected influx of patients. They don’t know if they can even keep themselves safe. Hospitals face bankruptcy. When can children return to school, pre-school, day care. Any and all of us could become infected. We don’t know how bad that would be.
The human brain has a love/hate relationship with uncertainty. It can become addicted to the uncertainty involved in gambling when there is a potential upside. But when there is no possibility of winning, there is only a downside to be faced. We hate taking losses.
The importance of reconciling with uncertainty is reflected in the fact that the Greeks and Romans gave chance the status of a god. Fortuna was her name. For people who design and administer vaccines, chance is the enemy of their efforts. Viruses are always randomly mutating, and some of those mutations will not be controlled by the vaccine. Some people in cancer treatment face the same reality of random mutation.
There is no certainty; there is only probability. While many people ignore or deny chance and randomness, it is healthier to reconcile with it as a significant way that things happen in life. The next breath is never guaranteed. There is something spiritually and morally important about living with this realization. This is how people stay sober. All we can know is now and that is challenging enough. Being reconciled with uncertainty can activate compassion toward others. We are seeing a lot of this in the news, far more than the selfishness and defiant responses. While we can’t know what tomorrow will bring, we can connect with what the needs are now.