99% recently published a compelling post called the Power of Uncertainty. The gist (though it’s worth reading the whole thing):

Projects fail all the time because we unwittingly bake the end solution into our initial objective. Rather than enduring an uncomfortable (but highly necessary) period of ambiguity, we fall into the trap of limiting our creativity by setting a project goal that is too narrowly defined from the start.

Ambiguity. We’ve been feeling that A LOT lately, as we find ourselves on the way to something but aren’t sure where we’re going. It made us google “ambiguity/ambiguous” (It felt a little like googling “what are we doing?”). We stumbled on a couple of nuggets of gold, like the quote from Gilda Radner, above, and this great play on the Creative Commons Licence…

Joe Pemberton via Flickr

…as we listened to Bodies in Motion from Laurie Anderson’s new album Homeland

But we needed a definition somehow, and so we went to the Oxford English Dictionary and found this:

Ambiguous (noun: ambiguity)

1. doubtful, questionable; indistinct, obscure, not clearly defined

2. admitting more than one interpretation, or explanation; of double meaning, or of several possible

meanings; equivocal (the commonest use.)

3. of doubtful position or classification, as partaking of two characters or being on the boundary line


4. of things: wavering or uncertain in direction or tendency; of doubtful or uncertain issue

5. hence, insecure in its indications; not to be relied upon

6. of persons, oracles, etc.: using words of doubtful or double meaning


All this made us feel fortified, to just be HERE.


Image of typed Gilda quote via Quotable Cards

Creative Confusion via Joe Pemberton’s Flickr Photostream

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3 replies on “the power of uncertainty -> ‘delicious ambiguity’

  1. The freedom of “the delicious ambiguity” did not come easily to Ms. Radner. She earned it through a painful ride in her on again off again battle with cancer (that she ultimately lost and) a willingness to be angry. “I slammed the doors in my room and I screamed and swore and yelled. I broke bottles of cosmetics and threw books against the walls. I tried to pierce the universe with my anger, ” She writes in her autobiography, “It’s Always Something”, where (as you may know) your “ambiguity” quote is included. I am not sure if i understand what your dictionary definitions have to do with this quote, but, I would like to share with your readers what Ms. Radner wrote after making your chosen quote and here it is: “When I was little, Dibby’s cousin had a dog, just a mutt, and the dog was pregnant, but she was due to have her puppies in about a week. She was out in the yard one day and got in the way of a lawn mower, and the two hind legs got cut off. They rushed to a vet and he said, ‘I can sew her up, or you can put her to sleep if you want, but the puppies are okay. She will be able to deliver the puppies.’
    Dibby’s cousin said, ‘keep her alive.’
    So, the vet sewed up her backside and over the next week the dog learned to walk. She didn’t spend amy time worrying, she just earned to walk by taking two steps in front and flipping up her backside, and then taking two steps and flipping up her backside again. She gave birth to six little puppies, all in perfect health. She nursed them and weaned them. And when they learned to walk, they all waked like her.
    Thanks for your posting as it gave me cause to reread “It’s always Something” — a painful but enjoyable book.

  2. THANKS so much for your illuminating Comment. I did not know that it came from Radner’s autobiography, It’s Always Something, but did know a bit of her story. The post I wrote was a perhaps-not-fully-formed riff on grappling with ambiguity, not knowing, difficult stuff that doesn’t have an answer…a state that the harsh events of life often puts us in. I was reminding myself and readers that NOT KNOWING and not being in control is the deal rather than the exception. And that there are always answers, some answer, often unexpected ones. Radner’s story of the dogs is a great example. “She didn’t spend any time worrying…” and just went on and figured out how to move forward, and give birth to her puppies.

    I’m to going to read “It’s Always Something

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