“In the final analysis, real suspense comes with moral dilemma and the courage to make and act upon choices. False suspense comes from the accidental and meaningless occurrence of one damned thing after another.”

John Gardner


Scan most headlines these days and somewhere within you will inevitably find something like “the world has become more uncertain” or maybe “embrace uncertainty.” Personally, I am amused because today’s world is no more, nor no less, uncertain than in the past. Uncertainty, generally speaking, has been an equal opportunity employer of every decade and every life. That said. The more we talk about uncertainty the more people start feeling uncomfortable because uncertainty, at its core, eliminates any sense of predictability. And while predictability, in general, is a myth, most people enjoy some predictability in Life <this is most often found in rituals and daily habits>.

But let me get to my point today. Uncertainty is, well, suspenseful. I wonder if we would embrace uncertainty a bit more if it were called suspenseful? I mean, what the hell, people spend gobs of money paying to watch suspenseful movies or buy suspense books. Sure. I know that is living vicariously through “arm’s length” suspense, but in our heart of hearts we would like to navigate each of these scenarios ourselves. And we all know ‘navigation’ actually means ‘choices.’ Now. While uncertainty makes everyone feel quite uncomfortable, generally speaking, choices do not. And while not all choices are created equal, making a choice is usually associated with ‘control’ as in “I made a choice -good or bad – and in doing so I am attempting to control my own destiny.” Once again, I wonder if instead of talking about uncertainty we just talked about choices. Choices end suspense. Okay. Maybe choices can be seen as navigating suspense and certainly choices could be associated with ‘getting out of a suspenseful situation.’ Anyway. What I do know is life can be a bit suspenseful on occasion and that choices are inevitably what increases the likelihood we can get out of suspenseful situations.

Which leads me to false suspense.

Many time we, people, create suspenseful situations. That said I am going to say a dick-like thing. Far too often it is our dreams that creates false suspense.


“Man lets his dreams lie to him at night, his whole life long, his moral sense never trying to prevent it”



It was Nietzsche who suggested we use our dreams to lie to ourselves. And in doing so we avoid the sense, the moral sense, to question the lie. Therefore, it creates a false suspense. Why do I know I am on the right track saying this? how many nights have people spent restlessly not sleeping over angst of pursuing or the challenges of pursuing some dream. Night after night. And, yet, over time, that dream does not come true. Our sleeplessness is, well, spent in suspense. The problem is that much of that could actually be false suspense – because the dream just isn’t realistic or maybe just not really the right dream for you, I, us, whoever. Look. I am certainly not suggesting dreams, or dreaming, is bad. Its just that having the wrong dream can be really bad. Wrong dreams create false suspense. I don’t have any particular wisdom to share on what ‘moral sense’ one can have for discerning a wrong-headed dream versus a right-headed dream but I will say, unfortunately, both will carry the burden of some suspense. I say that maybe to make the point it is important to avoid false suspense because it is wasted energy in a world, an uncertain world to return to the topic at hand, that demands you invest your energy wisely.

In the end.

Life, inevitably, is suspenseful. Uncertainty is certainly part of it but the truth is suspense resides in small, medium and large moments. And maybe we should embrace the suspense and, as well, embrace the choices which resolve the suspense at hand. Maybe it is actually suspense that permits the best of us to arise? I don’t know. Ponder.

Written by Bruce