A Journey with Uncertainty

I had an extremely difficult time picking a word for this project. I felt like there were so many different words that I could do that would work well with the project, but none of them really caught my attention. I debated what word I would (alliteration much) do all the way until Mrs. Bennett asked me what word I was doing. When she asked me, all I could do was stare blankly at the sheet of words. Nothing jumped out at me. So Mrs. Bennett let me think about it for the rest of class, and then asked me again. I looked at the sheet of words, and said the first word that I noticed. Uncertainty. At first, I had no idea why Mrs. Bennett started laughing at me. I thought maybe she was making fun of me…had I said something stupid? And then I realized that I chose a word that represented what mood I was in. I did not know what word to pick, or in other words, I was uncertain about what word to do. The irony of the situation was not lost on me. But what I did not know was that throughout this entire blog entry, I would take a journey with uncertainty, learning many life lessons from it.

My final belief about uncertainty is that the word is complex and extremely useful. However, I believe that it represents weakness. It represents a weakness is deciding, for example, you are uncertain about what to eat for dinner. Or, uncertainty can represent insanity. If a person is insane or not balanced in their mind, you can never know what is going on inside of your head. Your uncertainty if they are truly in their right of mind or not. However, because the word can be applied to so many things and situations in the world, I believe that the word itself is strong. A good word can have multiple uses and be used a lot. Thus uncertainty represents weakness, but because weakness exists so often in human nature, the word is used a lot. Thus the word is strong.

As I began researching my word, I realized how much uncertainty applied to me, more beyond how I was feeling when picking a word for this assignment. I realized how uncertainty fit my personality in many ways, and applied currently to what is going on in my life. I constantly am uncertain myself and my actions. I am not sure what to do in many situations, and go back and forth on my opinions. I care too much about what other people think. I am not always definite in my decisions, and when I do make a decision, I reflect back and over think that decision. In other words, my actions constantly are haunted by uncertainty. But that often has to do with lack of self confidence. Throughout this project, I have seen how uncertainty does represent me in many ways, and how every person is connected to uncertainty.

Uncertainty has come up a lot in my life lately. My future, at one point this year, was completely uncertain. From first applying to ten colleges, than not having any idea which one I would end up at. As I waited for my decisions, and all of my friends were accepted into colleges and were gushing about where they were going next year, I was completely uncertain of my future. I felt like after high school, I had no place to go. I felt lost. And then, I was denied from eight of the ten colleges that I applied to( waitlisted at two of them and then not accepted from the waitlist… in this article notice the last word of the first sentence XP). I learned a new kind of uncertainty. Not only was I uncertain of the future, but I became uncertain in myself- in my abilities as a student. For years, I have worked hard, and always assumed that if I worked hard, that I would go to my number one or number two schools. This belief was destroyed when I was denied from basically all of my schools. I was even more uncertain of my abilities as a student and as a person than I ever had been before.

There were some points in writing this blog that I completely ran out of ideas of what to say. That was probably right before I went to the rainforest. This is when I probably wrote my worst blog, “Uncertainty in Literature…and other places…” In the blog, I did not correctly identify the uncertainty in Beloved. Instead, I implied what I believed to be uncertainty, and did not prove it. And because I believed that my entire post was not solid, I added random comic strips and lyrics in the hopes that they would save the post. In reality, it just made the entire post a jumbled mess. At this point, I did not really understand uncertainty, and how it could literally be applied to any situation in the world that involves human nature- because uncertainty is human nature. Even nature itself is filled with uncertainty, and the future of life in general is also filled with uncertainty. This is what I learned by going to the rainforest.

Going to Rara Avis in the Costa Rican Rainforest was probably one of the best experiences in my life. But in many ways, it helped me with my understanding of uncertainty. To quote from what I believe is my best blog, from my two week expedition into the Costa Rican Rainforest, “… my definition and understanding of uncertainty- how uncertain one can be of the future existence of something as beautiful as the rainforest and the world in general- was completely reestablished…” In other words, I realized that uncertainty exists not only on my level, but worldwide. Uncertainty exists everywhere. This was my best blog because everything seemed to clique. I was able to push my understanding of uncertainty to a new level, see the word beyond the definition and see how it can be applied in the world on multiple levels. My life has a lot of uncertainty in it, but so does everyone. I should not let my last year, which has been filled with uncertainty for the future, for my family, and my overall existence, be defined by the feeling of ‘irresolution’. While in many ways uncertainty exists in me, I should not let fear of uncertainty drive my life.



Uncertainty in Literature

Uncertainty is a tool that many authors use to keep the reader in suspense. Shakespeare did this in his work Hamlet. In the play, the main character Hamlet aims to avenge his father who was killed by his brother Claudius who then married Hamlet’s father’s wife Gertrude. Hamlet is supposed to kill Claudius because that is what his father’s ghost came and told him to do. And so the reader must wait in suspense for many acts, waiting for Hamlet to finally do the deed. For he had many opportunities, though at first he did nothing more than walk around in a daze and make everyone suspicious. But still, the suspense for the reader, waiting for the big murder scene, is excruciating. At one point, in Act III scene iii, the reader thinks it will happen finally:

“Now might I do it pat, now he is praying;
And now I’ll do’t. And so he goes to heaven;
And so am I revenged. That would be scann’d:
A villain kills my father; and for that,
I, his sole son, do this same villain send
To heaven.
O, this is hire and salary, not revenge.
He took my father grossly, full of bread;
With all his crimes broad blown, as flush as May;
And how his audit stands who knows save heaven?
But in our circumstance and course of thought,
‘Tis heavy with him: and am I then revenged,
To take him in the purging of his soul,
When he is fit and season’d for his passage?

But alas- Hamlet backs off at the final moment, after going back and forth about killing Claudius. The reader is constantly sent on a roller coaster of emotions with Hamlet. Does he want to live or die? Does he love Ophelia or not? Is he crazy or not? You can never really tell what Hamlet will do next or what the devil the man is thinking. And so when it comes to whether he will kill Claudius in the end- I am uncertain he will do that as well. He keeps putting it off again and again. He keeps thinking about it more and more, and the murder thus becomes more premeditated. But still, as Hamlet pushes the murder off again and again, the reader can’t help but go a little crazy with suspense. Of course, the uncertainty of the murder does exist for the majority of the story and thus keeps reader and or watcher extremely interested. Thus Shakespeare is able to captivate his audience using uncertainty as a tool.

Overall, I believe though that Hamlet is almost a personification of uncertainty, or if uncertainty came to life, it would be Hamlet. He as a character is never certain in his emotions, and it constantly using opposites to contradict each other, which makes his believes and ideas even more vague. His vague tone and speech that can be exemplified by Hamlet’s great “To be or not to be” speech where he discusses whether to love or die (again, great opposites) helps Hamlet become the exemplary of uncertainty.

Sidenote: this is Kenneth Branagh who is basically the all-star in the shakespeare movies. He also was professor lockheart in Harry Potter and directored Thor. He is my new favorite person. But here he is acting as Hamlet.

Uncertainty of the Rainforest

     In the two weeks that I was in the rainforest, my understanding of uncertainty has been completely redefined, because I experienced uncertainty from the moment I boarded the plan to Costa Rica. I was uncertain of what I was doing- I did not think I could survive and really be happy in the rainforest. When actually in the rainforest, every step I made I was uncertain because the soil was so unstable and eroded and clay-like, that with every step I took, I could slip so easily. There was one point, on the hike back, that literally slide about 100 meters or so down a slope that was completely made of clay. Any move I made, I did not know what was going to happen next. I thought uncertainty thus can be defined as being not knowing what was the next step or not always feeling balanced in a situation. I never thought that uncertainty could be uncertain that something will exist in the future. This was a new meaning that I learned- uncertain of something’s existence or life.

     While in Costa Rica, I studied Migratory Birds. There is no way to describe what its like to hold a little chestnut sided warbler in your hand- a bird that lives three months out of the year in Connecticut, and then nine months out of the year in Costa Rica- and feel its heart beat start to match your own. There are no words that could describe the sadness I felt, when I realized that this adorable and amazing bird, might not have a home anymore. The uncertainty of this bird’s future existence broke my heart- because its song is just amazing. This was just one example of a moment during my trip, where I stopped and realized how quickly the amazing life and existence of so many different organisms could be destroyed in an instant. What would happen to so many different organisms- birds, reptiles, insects, jaguars, all of them. Would they just simply disappear? This was a new reality that I had to face while in the rainforest. It is a reality that completely broke my heart.

     Walking the seven mile hike down from Rara Avis down to the cities of Costa Rica just proved to help make sure I understand this uncertainty of the rainforest. This is because I literally saw the slow degeneration of the rainforest. I saw the pure and beautiful rainforest slowly become wasteful and useless farmland, which then became land that literally had no purpose what so ever, and then that land become little towns of poverty and poor life. We walked on just open grassland where there literally were no farm animals, for miles. There literally was no purpose for the land- and those rolling hills used to be filled with so much life and an amazing world that so few people know about. All for nothing. What would happen to the world if all of the rainforest were to just disappear? The rainforest produces a large portion of the oxygen we breathe. What happens if that source of oxygen is gone? Where does all of that life go? All of those species and organisms that contribute to overall ecosystem of the world? These are questions without answers. And thus my definition and understanding of uncertainty- how uncertain one can be of the future existence of something as beautiful as the rainforest and the world in general- was completely reestablished in two weeks in which I was gone.

An example of one person’s experience in Rara Avis, Costa Rica:

Uncertainty in Literature…and other places…

Often in literature, the author might leave many things uncertain. Some authors like to bash the reader in the head with what they are trying to say. For example, Mary Shelly in her work Frankenstein or Milton’s Paradise Lost. That is not always the case however. In Toni Morrison’s Beloved, a story about a African American woman that escapes from slavery, there is much uncertainty. You can almost never figure out what is happening. There are so many ways to interpret the text and so many different feelings that the reader feels, that the reader just feels in a jumble. Not only is the action of the story uncertain- for the time of the book will shift back and forth until you feel like you are in the nightmare world that the main characters are in- but the feelings that the reader has are extremely uncertain. On one hand, you often feel sympathy for the horrors that the slaves go through. On the other hand, when you realize that the slave men are talking about having sex with cows and are fantasying about raping a young teenage girl, you still feel a little sympathetic to be honest, but you are really just disgusted and horrified, and confused and a little angry. To be honest, when reading the book, half the time I don’t know what to feel. The book is well written because I think that was what Morrison wanted to do. She wanted to focus on African American history and put it out in the open. This was what really happened and how slaves really lived and reacted. She was not trying to sugar coat it and make you just feel so sorry for the slaves. While you do sometimes, she also wanted you to feel other emotions- anger, disgust, wonder, confusion. She wanted you to feel these jumble of emotions and uncertainty in how you feel because that was often the life and mind of a slave. Plus, because you are uncertain of what you feel, you will want to keep reading- to try and figure out what is going on. She is not attempting to slap you in the face with what she is saying though- you are supposed to figure out her meaning. I may not have completely figured out what she is trying to say though. But I am sure that I feel uncertain in the text and in what is going on.

I can’t beleive
What you have done to me
My eyes they don’t deceive
Why aren’t you listening

We’re standing here
Your mouth stays closed
I’m still not clear
Why you left me standing here

You’re leaving me
Despite this tradgedy
My ears they don’t deceive
Why aren’t you coming clean

I always thought that you would always be a friend to me
I never thought that you would end up my worst enemy
Don’t trust the lies that’s leading us into uncertainties
So full of jelousy I trust for you not trusting me

Don’t be afraid to be yourself
Your confidence will always mend
Don’t be afraid to be yourself
Don’t be afraid to fight again

We’re standing here
Rejection; out of reach
It’s still not clear
Why you left me standing here


Uncertainty in Life and Fine Arts

Here are some examples of artists, filmakers, writers, who all used uncertainty as the basis for their work.

This movie was released in 2009, and exemplifies the feeling of being uncertain in relation to human emotion.



By: The Fray


“Learning the Art of Uncertainty

I teach people how to cultivate awareness of uncertainty in their lives, then how to know the difference between uncertainty and panic, anxiety, stress and worry. From that they learn some simple skills and techniques in applying this newly found capacity to their daily lives. These skills and techniques are designed around your own needs and experiences. In learning how to do this, you are not pushed around by uncertainty, but know how to extract the benefits of uncertainty, whether it be in their work or work-whatever they do, in their personal and inner lives as well. Learning the art of uncertainty can increase your experience of prosperity. You can learn how to take opportunity and energy out of seemingly nothing to improve your lot in life and then learn how to pay it back, for uncertainty requires that which is borrowed , or used must be returned. Uncertainty if understood out of your own experience can be a life- enhancing experience, every day, and in every situation that you find yourself in.”

This, amusingly enough, is a guy who believes he can teach a person how to be uncertain.



(This was just amusing…)


     There is a reason that authors, writers, filmmakers, artists, all use the idea of uncertainty. Humans connect to the feeling of being uncertain. All the time we feel uncertain of the future, of our own feelings, of life in general. We can never make up our minds half the time, and the other half, we just can’t know yet. The future of our world sometimes seems ambiguous as well. With the economy falling, the seasons in reverse order and all the natural disasters occurring, people question the future of the planet itself. It feels as if everything is at a tipping point, and it no one can see what is on the other side of the downfall. Global warming is truly messing with our plant, along with the exponentially increasing population of man. We reached seven billion people estimated on earth. The planet cannot support so many people. Scientists believe that the population will reach its peak at around 2050. But of course, no one knows what happens when it reaches its peak. Some say a big die off will happen naturally, others say there will be so little food that people will just be starving in the streets. Overall, such a future and what could happen with that impending future is extremely uncertain.

    I, personally, am extremely uncertain in my life right now. I am uncertain about my future. I have absolutely no idea where I am going to be in a year or even six months. I have no idea what colleges will accept me, what colleges I will want to go to over others, and what state I will even end up in. But when I see the music, the art, the films that represent uncertainty, I do not feel as alone, as scared of uncertainty. I realize that everyone feels such uncertainty for the future. As corny as it is, such art comforts me and helps me not to fall over in a pure panic attack half the time. Thus overall, uncertainty can be quite common and fearful, but it often can be utilized by artists and filmmakers in order to help bring together human emotions. Because we feel such emotions, we connect better with others.  


An Uncertain Mind Leads to the Chosen Word “Uncertainty”

    Honestly, when forced to choose a word to focus on, I had no idea. I was staring at the list of words, and I had come down to three words. But when doing another look through, I could not make up my mind. Then ‘uncertainty’ popped out at me. Most likely my state of mind led to my decision, but still, the word is unique as its history shows. Human nature also can reflect uncertainty, as well as science. Uncertainty can be seen ranging in human emotions- a person cannot feel certain in what they are feeling. Or a person can have uncertainty in his or her understanding of a concept. People often have uncertainty in their nature- they act one way one day, and different the next. Literature can also exemplify uncertainty. Another can make the theme or moral of the story have uncertainty in order to let the reader look at their own morals. The story line can have uncertainty to provide suspense and let the reader enjoy making up possibilities as to what could happen. A specific example of uncertainty in literature would be the fear of uncertainty that many characters have- the fear of not being certain of everything in their life. Victor from Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein is an example of this character who feared not knowing everything and not being certain of life and death. There are many other examples. Science also has uncertainty. Science is able finding out the uncertain- or the unknown. There are also principles based off of the uncertain- like the uncertainty principle that states that an electron’s position and velocity cannot both be known and thus one of them is always uncertain. There are a lot of places in the world for the word “uncertainty”.

Formal Definition (s)

1. the state of being uncertain; doubt; hesitancy: His uncertainty gave impetus to his inquiry.

2. an instance of uncertainty, doubt, etc.

3. unpredictability; indeterminacy; indefiniteness.

Related words: hesitation, irresolution, indecision, ambivalence.

History- Etymology

     The etymology of uncertainty began in the late 14th century in England, when uncertainty broke off from its stem word uncertain, which was created in 1300, meaning “of indeterminate time or occurrence” or “not fully confident”. After a while, uncertainty was used in occurrence to the uncertainty of history or the past. For example, Caius is another name for the Roman praenomen Gaius- they both are abbreviated as C. But the confusion between these two names exemplifies the uncertainty in roman history, language and use of the gamma. In 1400, uncertainty became related to ‘ambiguity’, and thus picked up a new meaning: “capability of having two meanings”. The word incertitude was later connected with uncertain in the mid-fifteen hundreds. Another new meaning that was created in 1400 was “not being executed, unfulfilled” in referring to legal matters with a major connection was to the word suspense. Hesitation was also connected with uncertainty in the 1400’s, meaning stammering, uncertainty in speech. Uncertain then picked up the meaning of “variability”. Another adaption in the mid-fifteenth century is that uncertainty was connected with “dubitation” or “to waver in opinion.” In 1700, uncertainty was connected with the word ‘dubiety’- meaning doubt, uncertainty. The word then began to evolve in relation to other words or theories. Werner Heisenberg, a German scientist, created his “uncertainty principle” in 1927, which was the idea that an electron could either have a determined position or determinate velocity but not both. In other words, in velocity or position are either uncertain. Another example of uncertainty’s evolution is when a sound of uncertainty “er” was adapted in the mid-nineteenth century. It is thus that uncertainty has evolved and had new meanings and purposes in its history.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.