Dealing With the Unknown Unknowns

One night this week I was offered a ride home by a prominent fund manager. Upon asking him his views on the political and economic future, his response was clear and succinct: “I believe that there is an explosive bomb about to descend that will cause enormous disruption”. His only uncertainty was as to where and when.

I mention this only because one gets the sense that we are living in uncharted times. Old norms and conventions are fast dissipating. No new models have taken their place. Under such conditions it is inevitable for human beings to be more fearful.

The former United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said it well: “There are known knowns; there are known unknowns; but there are also unknown unknowns”.

How then do we deal with the unknown unknowns?

There is a penetrating insight on this subject conveyed to the saintly Baal Shem Tov [1698-1760] by his father. In the final words before his passing, he said, “Yisrolik, fear nothing but G‑d alone.”

In this clear and succinct message lies the secret to dealing with fear. As humans we have a profound need to place our trust in something or someone, for if not we will be afraid.

The reason we are afraid is because we believe there are forces beyond our control that dictate events in our lives which are not to our perceived benefit.

In placing our complete trust in a G-d who is both omnipotent and benevolent, we will then not be subject to fear, for there are no independent forces that can cause us any harm. No human being or any unforeseen circumstances.

Our job is to place our trust in G-d, be unafraid of man, and do our utmost best to make the right choices each moment of every day.

This article is published in honor of the birthday of the saintly Baal Shem Tov who was born on the eighteenth day of Elul.

About the Author
Founder and CEO of Center for Jewish Life, London UK.
Comments