Chaplain Tim offers us a “third way” to explore and learn to accept the ambiguous aspects of life.
There is one thing about ambiguity. Umm, NO. An ambiguous situation means there is MORE THAN ONE component. The factors differ and are not resolvable. Take the phenomenon of light. It acts both like a particle bouncing around and like a wave flowing and bending around. Different actions at the same time, but not resolvable—it’s ambiguous.
There is a biblical parable about ambiguity. The story is about someone preparing to attend a great banquet. Admission ticket in hand, the guest is in a quandary about where to sit. The guest’s inner wrestling went something like this: “I want to sit near the head of the table. But if I take a seat of higher honor, I might get demoted by the host. But if I sit near the foot I may not get promoted. What to do?” (Luke 14:7-11).
As the attendee tries to determine a proper seating strategy, the ambiguity in this story cannot be resolved. You can’t sit in two places at once. That’s why “preoccupation” causes so much internal distress—trying to occupy some future place while still here. Resolution is fruitless and frustrating. But what if another option is found in holding, and living into, and learning from ambiguity? Perhaps wisdom can be found precisely in difficult, ambiguous situations.
One interpreter of the parable suggests two deeper learnings. One is that it is not your table. Someone greater than you is the host; you are a guest among many guests. A second learning is that you HAVE a place! Your ticket to the banquet, provided by the host, guarantees a place at the table. Where you sit is not yours to decide…but you DO have a chair with your name on it…so relax!
Seeking wisdom within life’s ambiguities can free you from “binary thinking”: either/or, only one solution, this or that. Some wisdom traditions call it “seeking a third way.” Part of that wisdom is simply accepting the reality that a particular situation is ambiguous. It can’t be resolved but it can be lived into and learned from. Yes, I believe that acceptance, respect, gratitude and many such learnings from ambiguity contribute to wise living…among other things.