The power of doubt

Victor Brauner :: ‘The Triumph Of Doubt’ :: 1946












We live in an era of certainty – or pseudocertainty. Ways of being, dressing or behaving, answers to questions or attitudes in response to situations appear to be unique, obvious and unarguable. In times of ‘personal services’ (trainer, shopper, organizer, stylist…!!!), self-help books and “how-to” handbooks (not to mention contemporary bibles such as Google and Wikipedia), not being able to keep up with the “must-bes” or “must-haves”, or not having the instant (and expected) answer to any questioning appears to be a sign of ignorance or weakness.


In 2008, in an interview to Franthiesco Ballerini, correspondent to the Brazilian newspaper Estadao in Los Angeles – in a context of criticism on television for its power to destroy reflection capacity – the award-winning actor Alan Arkin made an interesting observation: “Today, when you ask a question to a young person, they always have an answer. People no longer reflect before answering. Nobody says ‘let me think about it’. Even Einstein used to say this all the time, and he was reasonably smart.”


Doubt is one of the major human development drivers, and the capacity to reflect is one of our greatest assets. Certainty and unanimity are not only stupid, they are also stagnant – one can only grow, both socially and individually, through constant questioning. Those who do not say to themselves “I don’t know, I need to think about it” do not know the pleasure of listening to themselves – to their soul, reason and feelings – and of building their own identity.


Enjoying freedom of thought, exercising emotional and intellectual skills, taking ownership for one’s own way of being, dressing or behaving, as well as being whole and worthy in responses and attitudes towards life (well aware of the responsibilities involved in them) is one of the greatest pleasures human beings can indulge themselves in – and it’s the most elegant way of living life, unique as it is.