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Shades of Grey


The people who unnerve me the most are those who are doggedly assured about everything. For better or worse, I am not like that. From the universe to faith, from gun control to politics, it is often shades of grey for this 40-year-old. If others have it all figured out, bully for them. But they scare me.

The older I get, the more I see things through a prism of uncertainty. In fact I am so uncertain, I've no idea whether this is a normal progression of aging human thought, or if it's an anomaly derived from some inner quirk or foible. I suspect it may be a bit of both.

When I was younger, I saw the world with a fair amount of assuredness. Things were black & white. X was good, Y was bad. I knew such things to be self-evident. Older people would sometimes shake their head, and I'd hear things like, "It's not that simple, Matt," or "Life is more complicated than that." I shook my head at them. They'd let the world beat them down into submission. That wasn't going to happen to me.

Fast forward twenty years, and I find myself often echoing the words of the aforementioned older people. Maybe that's what life does to you? After years of experiences, knowing more people, observing situations and listening to others, I simply find it impossible to be 100% sure, 100% of the time. Is that bad? I don't know.

There are, of course, I few things I know. I'm certain of who I love. My opinion on equal rights is pretty firm. I believe in freedom (though what freedom means can be its own morass). I tend not to believe in religion, though even there am willing to admit that there's simply no way to know for sure. I lean liberal in my politics, though find there are things to respect within conservatism. I have opinions on others' actions, though am less quick to judge them. Empathy has increased tenfold from when I was younger.

Of course, I can't blame this all on simple aging. While clarity of thought and moral certitude would seem to be the domain of the young or the very old, there are those my own age who dwell in it far better than I. It is difficult not to marvel -- or cringe -- at how firm they are in their beliefs. They know what they know. And, like rocks weathering the passage of time, they remain resolute in their convictions.

I am not like that. It may be a blessing or a curse, but I still have doubts. About a lot of things. At my core, I believe in setting an example for how we want to be treated, in helping others when we can, in finding and providing love, in giving thought and consideration to our words and to our actions. Those are where my moral confidences are strongest.

For everyone who has life figured out, who knows what they know and damn everything else, well, I both envy and fear you. Of that, I am certain.


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