Certainty is our greatest enemy

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“…the opportunity to meet new people and engage with them in meaningful but nontraditional ways was really valuable. I was energized and felt connected, and also challenged by the questions asked.”  Participant from session #1

“Hey John, do you believe in God?”
“What if everyone in the world stopped believing in God at the same time, would God exist?”

My little brother 

This was an excerpt from a profound conversation I had with my little brother, when I was a Big Brother volunteer. My little brother was 10 at the time and we were hurtling along the Glendale Freeway with the radio blaring.

I answered yes to his question quickly and confidently. After all I was supposed to be a mentor. You know, save a fatherless boy and all that. But I had many doubts and questions. Most of which I had trouble articulating.

I knew I believed in a superior energy source that was guiding Mother Nature and my life force. Not the biblical stories or a single white guy in a throne directing the traffic of the universe.

Up until his questions, I wasn’t really listening to my little brother that afternoon. I was distracted by my self-importance and my thoughts about my schedule.

When I heard the second question, I asked him to repeat it. I heard his innocence and his depth of curiosity. It was a sledgehammer that shattered my self-absorption. I pulled off the freeway to understand his question and frankly my own.

We had an amazing conversation about life and death. About existential thoughts. He talked about his faith, dreams and ambitions. I confessed my ignorance and my theories. My little brother acknowledged the value of my ideas. We were parked there for nearly an hour.

I felt my life and the mentoring world turn upside down. It was a scene from a Christopher Nolan film for me, but I digress.

My little brother was unwittingly mentoring the sh*t out of me.

It redefined mentoring for me forever. The power and beauty of the authentic exchange.

20 years later, when I ran one of the largest chapters of Big Brothers Big Sisters, I read the research that convincingly shows that the mentor is always the biggest beneficiary of any mentoring relationship.


Because you must live up to your advice. Hypocrisy doesn’t work with a kid watching everything you do and say.

“Do what I say and not what I do.” Is not an authentic form of leadership, parenting and certainly not mentoring.

Think about who is watching you now. Not just at home. At work. At church. On the golf course. Regardless of your age and stage, you have followers not just on social media, but in life!

Think about what you could learn from them.

Why are we here?

What do we believe?

What are we doing?

What will we do with this precious opportunity on this speck of dust in the cosmos? …. To blend Mary Oliver and Joseph Campbell

I feel like we humans are fugitives from our own morality and mortality. Running from the inevitable, needing some assurance that it matters. We seek a theoretical or theological framework to explain this mysterious existence.

So gullible. So vulnerable. We gravitate to many frameworks that give our feet the sense of stability. Simplistic notions, philosophies, ideas, and thoughts provide solace from the emptiness of our journeys. This also fuels conspiracy theories, racism, and religious superiority.

We need GOD to fill in the gaps of our understanding. To give us meaning and purpose. That death matters, so life matters.

To what extent do we control or even influence our destiny? Our DNA, the motion of the earth, the light of the sun, gravity– our own heartbeat and breathing? The energies and forces we cannot see or understand-we know so little.

We can arrive at a place that it is not about me or even us, a place where you have to resist judgment and ego. To arrive where you become one with everything, the possibility and the miracle of being.

I need to believe that what we do, the little things, the ripples, the actions, the influences can reduce suffering, provide meaning, shed light, to reveal our ishared destiny. That pursuing truth, goodness, and self-understanding matters. Matters to our short momentary existence that blend and blur with the infinite reverberations and motions of the universe.

The material world, the invented distractions, the systems and processes, the institutions, including formal religion, manufacture worlds that separate us from one another and our natural interconnectedness.

When does the escape becomes the prison or the life. When the distraction becomes the attraction. We do things to be things. To be better than others. To take more light than we need or even deserve.

The shining of beings has been dulled and even diverted by onerous institutions that domesticate dreams, ideas, and individuality. The potential light from these souls gets co-opted by the black holes of  selfishness powered by avarice. Light that gets held in the captivity of conformity.

The question about the existence of GOD is essential to my journey. I do not consider myself an atheist or even agnostic. I have become open to new ideas about the explanations of our existence. The cause and effect–the contingent theories—all interesting. But I remain curious and open to understanding. Not hung up on GOD, because as we debate the existence, we lose time to actually live and pursue why we are here.

I believe in our interconnected human consciousness.

I believe that people that hurt others hurt themselves too.

I believe that what we do and how we live has influence far beyond our knowledge and intentions.

Virtues vs vices. Whose virtue? Whose vice? Who determines equity or equality or justice?

We must.

Our greatest enemy is certainty. The certainty of GOD or the certainty that there is no GOD. Certainty divides us into believers and non-believers. Into the saved and the sinners.

The true realization of GOD is our acceptance of the unknown and the unknowable.

I further agree that science is not singular knowledge and religion is not just belief. We need both facts and faith to exist and comprehend the possibility of life and living.

We must surrender to these greater powers of the unknown. These given and discovered potentialities, traits and energies within us can be useful, enjoyable, and medicinal.

We need the humility to understand that we have only a small foothold on the Himalayas of knowledge. That our infinitesimal view into the wonder of the depth of the universe, of the forces of energy, the behavior of the atoms….. both religion and science are inadequate.  

In the end what we do is the conclusion we reach.

We are interdependent. We are interbeing.

I like GOD as a verb.

Yes, I believe in God.

Do we want to have and give simple answers to the unknowable?

We are always surmounting the infinite mountain of why. And we reach different vantage points on this mountain when we open our minds and hearts.

To be mentored and educated by unexpected places and people.

Still having this insightful conversation that had its genesis with my little brother on the Glendale Freeway four decades ago.

Aren’t we all brothers and sisters?

What if we all stopped believing in each other at the same time?

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