uncertainty tagged posts

“But” And “Yet”: The Arrogance Antidotes

Back when I made my living as a journalist editing a weekly newspaper for which I wrote the editorials, I noticed something over time.

I got far and away my most laudatory feedback when I was the most certain of my position and conveyed as much in no uncertain terms. When I fired away with all guns blazing, rat-a-tat-bang with an occasional grenade of  humor, I would draw admiring comments from a cohort of readers who collectively said, via one expression or other, “You go, Boy! Take it to ‘em!”

And when the subjects deserved to be taken to, as in the stupidity and just plain heartlessness of so much of the AIDS-phobic anti-gay rhetoric of the time, it was easy—bringing a kind of smug satisfaction—to carpet-bomb the opposition and consider it a good day’s work.


It bothered me a little that in cases where I wasn’t nearly as certain of my “position,” where there were at least valid cons...

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On the Virtues of Uncertainty and Humility: David Foster Wallace’s Kenyon College Commencement Speech

The brilliant and challenging writer David Foster Wallace, gone from the world since his suicide in 2008 at age 46, left behind a critically acclaimed body of work that included short stories, essays, magazine journalism, and three novels. Two of those novels, Infinite Jest (1996) and the posthumously published The Pale King (2012), figure prominently on university reading lists and remain in wide circulation.

But in this digital age, Wallace is likely far better known and more widely seen and heard in his 2005 commencement address at liberal artsy Kenyon College in Ohio, the speech now having been watched hundreds of thousands of times in a variety of iterations on You Tube, and made into a rather remarkable short film (available here).

The speech runs barely over 20 minutes, with its essence boiled down to 10 minutes in the film mentioned above...

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The True “Twilight Zone”

When I was 9 or 10 years old, my brother landed a paper route, distributing the Eagle Rock Sentinel on Thursday and Sunday mornings. It meant getting up at 5 a.m., walking six or seven blocks to the drop-off point, bagging up papers on the street corner in the dark, then hoofing it up and down a hillside neighborhood for a couple of hours, dropping a paper as near to every porch as possible (especially those whose owners were known to tip an extra dime on top of the 40-cent monthly fee).

Pete was three years older and already showing the entrepreneurial bent that would lead him to a long career as a partner in an accounting firm. So he hired me to help deliver the papers, scoring me my own bag so we could walk up both sides of each block and thus cut the delivery time in half.

He paid me the princely sum of a dollar for each such outing, eight dollars a month...

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