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The Carletonian

Pondering the meaning of doubt

<eclared English as my major last spring. Spring is always different from autumn. Autumn is the most uncertain month. It makes you want to look for things in shaded places that are normally covered in lush greens or so frozen from the cold they are not attractive to curious fingers.

October is the worst. The pumpkins everywhere, bright and round, are obnoxious. They are overdone and make you feel blubbery and frail in your human frame by comparison. They are too much hairspray on Fall’s windswept head. Let fall be all windy and weightless!

But I’m the last one to call for containment. I overdo everything. I’m probably going to overdo this article. And pumpkins are way too cheery to be left to rot and offer substantial revenue besides to pumpkin farmers, et cetera. What they do remind me of, though, whatever my mood, is color. Color for color’s sake.
It’s a passion for color that kills me in the fall. It makes me riddled with doubt when things are going fine in my life. The English Major. Where’s the color to that? Paint everywhere, art, it’s art you should be doing. It’s paintings of pumpkins as big as Laird! Put all of Laird in a Pumpkin and smash it! Or carefully cut a face into it and watch the people drip with pumpkin juice as they squeeze in and out to and from class.

Doubt is a common feeling most of the year, actually. I believe it controls a lot of how we act. But it’s so subtle it’s very difficult to codify behaviors it inhibits because it is a negative emotion: one that is observable in the lack of observation of behavior that would happen in its absence.

For example, attraction. Y loves X but Y does nothing about it. Y even averts the gaze of X when they are alone together and X thinks that Y doesn’t really care about them, and X finds Z and they go to LDC for a romantic meal.

But no! It is doubt that paralyzed Y! Poor Y. It is doubt also that is married to fear, and it is fear that is married to hatred, and then we boil down into systemic injustices, but I’m going to avoid that and just talk about the beginning, which is doubt.

Doubt of God made Eve get the apple. Doubt is the cousin of curiosity, and can inspire movement, though it’s not enough of a reason for me to say for sure if that movement is good or bad. It’s energy.

Doubt, however, can be a problem because it can make you paralytic, and confuse you into thinking you are avoiding decisions by simply not making one. However, not making a decision is a decision. It’s a decision not to make the decision. It’s a decision, often, to stagnate. Still water attracts all the bugs.

I experience doubt all the time and I feel it has impeded my enjoyment many times in life. But I still act (and act out) a lot, I just doubt my choices when I don’t see a reward for them and then worry. However, there is a different between occasional doubt and constant doubt. Constant doubt is more common nowadays I’d imagine in an age where our generation is more stressed than before. Doubt is caused by not knowing which path to pick, which road to take, worsened by an increase in number of possible roads, of potential brilliant future careers and active sex lives. We don’t want to limit what we can do, but we have to limit it in order to do anything ever.

Some may experience occasional doubt or even a self-reported lack of doubt. What this article calls for is a reasonable amount of doubt. This is very abstract and hard to articulate, but doubt is imperative and worth thinking about. How has it changed how you act? How has it informed what you know? How has it inspired you to learn more?

Sometimes you may feel the more you learn the more you doubt what you thought you knew. Maybe this is called wisdom and what college is for. It is doubt, a broad and general doubt. Not quite skepticism, but almost. You are a vehicle for consuming and analyzing information, but nowhere in your genome is a coding for the truth. That’s what research does. Doubt can make you religious, can make you irreligious. There’s a gamut of reactions. For me, it is fascinating and horrifying to question and question more and more. Since coming to college, now in my junior year, I feel overwhelmed in abstractions and uncertainty, but also have grown immeasurably. In retrospect sometimes I think “wow I was just so wrong about so much.”

Before I decide whether to switch my major, I’m considering the doubt itself. If I can figure out what doubt is doing for me (maybe it is keeping me from being too committed, keeping me from the stress of making a decisive decision?), then I can start to use it to my behest. It can be a force for self-improvement, for a necessary and constantly evolving understanding of ourselves and the world.

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