Red Light Green Light

I know I’m doing it. Every single time.

I run in the morning, and I love the feeling of movement. My own power, nothing stopping me, GO. It’s pure freedome until I get to Arrow highway.

Going up the hill, I always break the law and jaywalk. I’m careful! I look both ways, and when there are no cars coming both directions, I RUN across and keep going. What this means is I get to keep moving.

But what goes up must come down. I am more tired when I come down. I stare at that stoplight the whole way.

It’s red. Then green. Are there cars coming by? Will there be a break?

There’s a name for this: a known unknown.

Donald Rumsfeld made this idea famous, but I have been familiar with it from my job for a long time. It has to do with assessing risk when you are planning to get things done. When I am making a plan of action, I have to remember to put my time and attention on what can be done, not on what I don’t know.

It is a big trap to base my actions on incomplete knowledge.  I can’t know. I know I can’t know. And I still try to know.

I know that stoplight is coming. It looms for blocks as I run towards it. I don’t know whether I will be able to cross the street by the time I reach it.

I slow my pace, trying to time my arrival at the corner to coincide with the green light. I cannot.

I fall into the trap every time. I want to be certain what my next step is. I want control.

My favorite physicist, the amazing Richard Feynman, wrote about this idea:

“People search for certainty. But there is no certainty. People are terrified — how can you live and not know? It is not odd at all. You only think you know, as a matter of fact. And most of your actions are based on incomplete knowledge and you really don’t know what it is all about, or what the purpose of the world is, or know a great deal of other things. It is possible to live and not know.”

It’s a lie and a trap to think I know, or to think I have control over what I don’t. I want to learn to stare down that light and run without second-guessing. I have to have faith.

There is always a light looming.