What is Rarely Certain about?

Image generated in NightCafe Studio with text prompt ‘Somebody is at peace, beneath a beautiful tree. Near to the tree is a group of people shouting angrily at a pile of computers and phones’. Yes, my prompt engineering skills remain sub-par.

Rarely Certain is about finding peace by acknowledging complexity. Allowing this/but also that both to stand. Rather than suckering for the comforting binary of this/so definitely not that.

It explores the frequently unreliable nature of our strongly held opinions and the pressure to know where you stand on controversial issues. Pressure that we put on ourselves as well as feel from outside. Rarely Certain aims to reassure that it’s ok to be undecided. To be comfortable with uncertainty. It’s about Radical Uncertainty as an ok thing.

It's for people, like me, struggling to make sense of things in a siloed culture when the pace of change and levels of angst feel hard to process. And how misplaced and unhealthy absolute certainty on controversial topics can be.

Expect as many questions as answers. Plus some ideas, observations, anecdotes, musings and tangential thoughts.

Who am I?

A full-time journalist between 1986 and 1997 (newspapers, BBC TV & radio) mostly specialising in off-diary investigative work, before moving into public relations. So I understand spin. My most recent paid writing gig was for a hyper-partisan anti-Brexit newspaper called The New European, following Britain's referendum vote to leave the European Union.

Brexit prompted me to make a minor name for myself by being very online and shouting a lot about political and cultural things, mostly on Twitter. That ended in 2020 when I noticed that being angry and frustrated online all the time was leaking into my offline world and making me unhappy. This post is about that decision. Sex is great, but have you tried quitting Twitter?

No longer being part of the online 'culture war' has created some space to breathe and reflect more honestly on my failure to properly understand or respect why so many of us think what we think. Value judgements around political culture came easily to me and there was comfort in that. Until I noticed that this is all it was. Self-comforting with the illusion of having insight that wasn’t shared by others..

Unexpectedly, no longer feeling certain about much has been liberating.

It also turns out that being rarely certain is more interesting.

Éminence grise: Penelope Lewis

Picture credits 1


Cadence according to inspiration, but typically weekly.

Why Substack?

Because Medium was awash with nonsense and Substack is better served by writers, while also serving writers better.

To find out more about the company that provides the tech for this newsletter, visit Substack.com.


Header image: Robin Higgins - Pixabay

Note: the cute stick person image used as the Rarely Certain logo is from a talented Pixabay user called Elisa Riva

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Welcome to the post-tribal struggle. Being 'right' is overrated anyway. It's not what you think, it's why you think it. Some posts about personal subjective wellbeing (not self-help shit).


Resisting the Twitterfication of discourse and fear of nuance. Pursuing humility and either entertaining or annoying people in the process. Also expect bits about WWII as I research the unit that liberated the town where I live.