I am not from Missouri and my name is not Thomas but doubt and I share the same head more often than not. That is not an apology. Doubt is a fact of life for anyone in touch with their own humanness.
Doubt defines the land between knowing and not knowing, between belief and disbelief. It is rarely the stamp of ignorance but oftentimes the watermark of intelligence. While the most intelligent people are those who know what they do not know and readily admit it, they are also people who realize that doubt comes with the territory.
Doubt, to them, is a friend who happens by to stir up some good internal conversation that helps them take inventory of their ideas, opinions, and beliefs. They know that doubt is never boring, never a waste of time or even of energy, even though the conversation at worst may go nowhere and settle into not knowing or, at best, engage others in trying to resolve the doubt. Good conversation is a rare treat these days and doubt seldom fails to spark it, whether within self or among friends.
To others, those uncomfortable with not knowing, doubt can be as unsettling as a noise in the middle of the night. Doubt feels like a blemish on their sense of responsibility to get things right even when that is not possible. Doubt is the bane of perfection and has no right to startle them into a sense of their imperfect selves. “I don’t know” is a rare phrase for them unless they add, to comfort themselves, “but I’ll find out.” In the meantime they cling to their sense of certainty like a toddler to its teddy bear.
Still others, those who doubt just about everything, see life as a battleground and themselves in a war they cannot win. Their doubts feed a cynicism and pessimism that cloud their every day. But somehow they seem to thrive on that, especially when inflicting others with their uncertainties. It seems to be their way of justifying themselves for doubting in the first place.
But many who doubt accept their doubts as a matter of course in lives too busy with other matters that claim their attention. Doubt is a worry they do not need. Their certainties are clear, their faith – in others, themselves and God – is in place and that is all that matters. There is something to be said for how that works for them.
Since doubt is a fact of life, however, the benefits of many a doubt can enrich a life with honest and challenging questions that can keep any self in touch with their growing edge. One thing is certain: a mind that knows no doubt is oblivious to what it means to be human, or already dead.