Ambiguity, Part 3 of 3

A very personal reflection based on Luke 21.5-19


When the familial testimony of the shadow-side of my Uncle Sy was revealed, the something else that I beheld and have come to believe is ambiguity. That quality or state of the obscurity – hence, inexplicability or inscrutability – of a something or someone.

Simply stated, life in this world is not simple. Ever. Circumstances, events, and people, in their inherent, inextricable complexity, are not and cannot be always as they seem. Therefore, truth, what is real, what is reliable is more difficult to define and, even when defined, deeper than our immediate and ongoing perception of it.

Uncle Sy wasn’t always and for all the strong, yet gentle man I came to know. He was, as each of us is, a product of his time. And his life’s era of unrelentingly oppressive, societally-authorized-and-accepted discrimination on the basis of color left him broken and embittered. Perhaps it was that he saw me as one into whom he could pour his best-remembered self with his stories of the birth of his dreams; though, for him, stillborn in their constant deferral and denial.

These realities once grasped, however, neither invalidate my experience of Uncle Sy nor could my experience refute the testimony of those who were victims of his violence.

Through the lens of these very personal reflections, I look at the world. A world still reeling from the ever-present, continually-morphing viral pandemic. And an America engulfed in yet another outburst of mass shootings and killings. An America, on this morning following yesterday’s guilty verdict in the trial of former police officer Derek Michael Chauvin for the killing, the murder of George Floyd, a black man, on Memorial Day 2020.

Our responses to these difficulties, tragedies, each and all laden with the ambiguity of people’s inherently wide-ranging and conflicting perspectives, cannot be reduced to simple answers to a variety of serious arguments about good and evil, whether natural or humanmade, individual freewill and communal responsibility, public health and the role of government, law enforcement and accountability, or God’s existence and benevolence and God’s awful absence and silence.

In the immutable face of life’s ambiguity, there are, at least, two primary responses.

One is a path of a cynicism in which we give up wrestling with things as they are, that is, things not always as they seem; which, I think, is one long (or, depending on individual temperament, short) step away from the nihilism in which we believe in little and trust in less.

Another way is a walk of faith that involves a search for a deepening revelation of truth hand-in-hand with a risk-taking high spirit of adventure coupled with a sense of life’s ambiguity and, therefore, a humble admission of our constant state of incomplete knowledge and imperfect wisdom.

This response demands perseverance. The kind of which Jesus speaks: “By your endurance you will gain your souls.”

The Greek word, psychē, rather than soul, is better translated life or self. Hence, by endurance, by a constant or consistent pursuit of truth, we take hold of the promise of the fullness of our own being, our own truth in our concrete experiences of this world.

By endurance, wrestling with ambiguity, that of life and that of our own, we gain our psychē, our very selves.

© 2021 PRA

5 thoughts on “Ambiguity, Part 3 of 3

  1. Paul,

    I loved this series sooooo much!! It’s a great thing that life is a marathon and not a sprint because wrestling with all the daily news can be life-stealing!! It’s almost too much to bear on some days!!!!

    I’m so happy you didn’t let your opinion of and experiences with the man you loved be tainted by the bitterness caused by the injustices of his life! You knew his TRUE self!!



  2. “You knew his TRUE self!!” Yes, Loretta, I would like to believe that I did. For his true self was the one, the man who dreamed and before his dreams were deferred and denied leading to his brokenness and bitterness. Although, clearly, his state of ongoing sorrow, too, was true or, at the least, real.

    As for the daily drumbeat of sorrowful news, “life-stealing”, aye, that is a fitting term. Hence, per Jesus’ counsel, perseverance is a necessity.



  3. Dear Paul,

    I am still thinking much about Uncle Sy. Your story of him has so much power, and it resonates with so much in my own soul right now, both personally and, more generally, as all of us seek to pick our way through the turmoil of these days, watching the world as it teeters on the brink between deadly stasis and necessary transformation. I want to and will respond from my heart, but it will take some time for me to listen to and interpret what my heart is saying in response to Uncle Sy as he is mediated through your eyes and your wise understanding.

    With love,



  4. Ah, my beloved sister Karen, I await your revelations and self-revelations…

    Something occurs to me… I used to think that when people die that they, for the living, remain frozen in time, stationary in memory just as they last were before parting. I cannot recall when I forsook that idea, that reality. Yet I do remember that it was associated with my brother Wayne, who died in March 1995. At some point along the way…my way of continued living, I realized that Wayne continued to speak to me, indeed, continued to grow along with me. At first, I considered this an aspect, an expression of my imagination. Then I recognized of much of my brother’s varied discourses with me had the nature of his voice and not mine. Perhaps it is that I had…I have internalized his presence (or my perception of his presence) to the extent that I can channel his personhood into the present moment(s). Perhaps…

    This occurs to me and it occurs to me to share this with you, for I believe that Uncle Sy and I continue to talk, to share and, as such, he has continued to evolve (or, more likely, my perception of him has evolved over time, indeed, as I evolve). I am not sure at all where this leads me, but it leads me somewhere…



    1. Oh, I do so appreciate this further word of Uncle Sy, Paul, for it is so much in accord with my own intuition about the dead and how they relate to us and we to them. My brother also lives and grows for me. I have the same questions about the nature of the relationships, but I know they are relationships, and so I think we tend them just as we do our friendships with our living loved ones. I’ll be back in touch soon, I hope. Much to ponder.

      Much love,



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