I look at the sketch closely; it’s a small 6X6, vibrant, colorful work of a famous painter. I hear the story of a sick sister who is selling her brothers own work, to pay for chemotherapy. I ask a friend about this work of art; this prolific collector, plants the seeds of uncertainty in my mind; is this authentic? Is this a genuine work of the same master? Apparently, the same master’s daughter had sold some work, a few years ago (after his death), which were not authentic.
Why would someone make up such an elaborate story for a relatively small sum of money? What if the story is completely made up? I spend one evening thinking about this quandary.
There are so many situations, where we seek a level of certainty, which just isn’t available. In retrospect, the most important things in life have the least amount certainty.
As I go to work every morning, there is very little certainty that I will return home that day; I have so little surety that I will see my loved ones in the same form and shape that I left them this morning. We have no guarantee on our vital organs. We have all heard stories of people going in to check out a headache and finding some debilitating disease lurking in their system.
As children, we seek the certainty of the love of our parents; however, we hear of small babies abandoned in trash cans or sold for money. As adults, we seek permanence in our relationships with a ring or encircling fire. However, modern statistics only re-affirms the fragility of this “venerable” institution.
The science of “management”, invented in the US, tends to lead us to control and manage outcomes in uncertain environments. In a previous role, during a capital appropriations process, the CFO of the company asked me to predict how this investment would fare in a repeat 9/11 type scenario. I thought the question defied logic, since, the world would be at a different stage, if something that catastrophic re-occurs.
Today, as I work with new leaders, we talk about making “good” decisions, based on all the facts that are available to us at a particular juncture, but leaving room to moderate our course of action as the environments change.
Every morning, as I pass by the small piece of work that put me in an irrational quandary, I am more mesmerized by the emotions I experienced while acquiring the piece, than the work itself.
At the end of the day, my “much better” half, who generally has a clearer view in any difficult scenario, helps me reach the conclusion that there is not much I can do, to provide any more certainty in my quest. If the piece is a “fake” we will still enjoy it as much as I would enjoy it if it’s “real”. Above all, by acquiring this piece, we hopefully have helped someone who needs treatment.
In an effort to acquire a level of certainty, it is easy to miss the bigger picture. Instead of seeking some level of “surety”, It’s more important to enjoy life as it is dealt to us – certain only of the people and environment that surrounds us at that very moment.
If we are privileged to live the next moment, we will enjoy it with the only certainty that things may change without notice, soon.