The opposite of doubt is certainty but, actually, both are different degrees of confidence.

Doubt seems to be the thing I write about most in my fiction. I would say it has had a major impact on my life as well although in both cases I think that the doubt is rational: in the absence of complete information (largely impossible unless we are dealing in mathematics) some degree of doubt is surely wise. Two bits of common wisdom attach to this.

The first one is “She who hesitates is lost.” The second one is “Pride goes before a fall.” Here the kind of pride I always thought it meant is the kind of pride you have in your own correctness – the degree of confidence you have in your perception. You think you’re so right. Then you suffer the nasty consequence of being mistaken. Hesitation, on the other hand, is a necessary feature of a doubting person as they pause to consider the possibilities. The meanings seem clear. Forge ahead too boldly – disaster. Stand back for too long – disaster. Either way, it’s disaster. There’s no mention of the times that hesitation meant you didn’t drop to your death down a hidden crevasse or the times that forging ahead carried you safely while the ice cracked and broke after you passed.

We can all think of instances where foolhardy confidence or wavering insecurity has led to success or failure. I am the kind of person who wants to get it right. I want to know what’s right. When is confidence justified? When is doubt merely timewasting? I have doubts about confidence. My doubt just goes all the way down. But something curious happens when you follow the Doubt Rabbit all the way to the bottom of the hole.

There is no bottom to that hole. You can fall forever. After it’s been going on a while it loses its natural terror and becomes fascinating instead. So after ages of being exhorted from various worthy sides to Be More Confident I’m glad I wasn’t. Being wrong is nearly certain. Being right largely accidental. But looking to see all you can see – that’s a priceless experience I wouldn’t trade.

In some places (as noted by the late, great Douglas Adams), when you fall towards the ground and miss that’s called flying.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *