The Uncertainty Principle

By Joey Wilson-Brooke

It used to exasperate me when my brother and I had our age-old argument: ‘Science’ versus ‘The Arts’ – which is the best? We both stand in opposite corners, with him taking the side of science and I defending my beloved English. He would often argue that what he studied was useful, that it could help mankind to progress even further, take on new frontiers and understand the bigger picture of life and the universe. I said to him that before people even knew what stars were, they knew that they wanted to talk and write about them; that the vastness of such questions about the universe can only be discovered when the interiority of our own lives and selves has been fully explored. At this point he would roll his eyes and walk away. This is when I feel I have delivered the sucker punch – I can balance my argument and understand both opinions, but he doesn’t. He cannot concede that literature, reading, freedom of speech, writing and poetry have a place equal to his equations and theories.

However, I recently began to doubt my own arguments. I was glad that my brother hadn’t brought up the topic in a while because I would have been flattened in seconds. I lost the belief and direction that I had felt before. Grief is a hard emotion to combat. It sits on your chest and weighs you down with memories, guilt, doubts and wishes. Everyone is different and handles things differently, and I felt that I had to be useful again, to regain a sense of purpose. That decision didn’t help to lift the weight though, as I had hoped it would.

The moment I felt relief was when a friend sent me a poem that had helped them in a similar situation. Rosetti’s ‘Remember’ is a very popular poem – you might even call it cliché, like the Wedding March at a wedding – but that doesn’t change its effect. Its popularity only assured me that it speaks the truth. From then on, I stopped my doubts and knew my argument was solid.

There is one certainty in life, and that is uncertainty. We will always have questions about the universe: why things happen and what the reason is for them. Some of these questions will be answered with a theory, but some of them will be answered with a sentence, or a poem. Even if the answer isn’t exact or defined, there is some comfort in knowing that you are not the only person to ask it.

Joey Wilson-Brooke is an English and Related Literature student at the University of York, and the Treasurer of York PEN.

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