The Value of Doubt

by Brian Coyne  , LINDEN, NSW, Saturday, April 22, 2017, 09:26 (3 days ago) @ Beehive

Read the Sunday Reflections of Beehive and others HERE.

What was the first decision you made in your life as an adult?

Beehive, thanks for this. I’ve mentioned before that as I reflect back on my life the first truly adult decision I made was in the choice of my Confirmation name. At the time I was away at boarding school and hence away from the influence of my parents when we were asked to choose a Confirmation name. I can remember it as clear as a bell to this day that I chose the name of Thomas, after the “doubting Thomas”. I remember thinking that why I chose this name was because I felt I needed convincing about what I believed. Brian Michael Thomas Coyne: all the other names were chosen for me by someone else. Thomas is the name I chose. I was 11 or 12 years of age at the time, still in short pants, and a boarding student at St Louis Jesuit School in Claremont, Western Australia.

The choosing of that name remains for me some kind of seminal moment in my entire life. I’m still a “doubter”; I still need convincing about anything. I find myself at the age of 68 going on 69 still questioning everything.

I’d be interested in hearing from others the answer to this question: “Can you remember the first decision you made in your life as an adult — independent of your parents and the other influential people in your formation?” Thinking back there were probably earlier choices I made in my life that were independent decisions but this one of choosing my confirmation name was the decision I most remember as being fully my own decision.

I loved your opening line to the reflection above: “It is fashionable to not believe. Nonbelief is in fact an essential starting point if indeed you are serious about discovering something.”

I believe you! In a sense the great scourge of our present age is certitude — those who elevate the need for certitude and dogma into their lives above the need for food, air, water and even shelter for their sense of identity and being. You find them congregating in the comments’ columns in Rupert’s tabloid press. He’s turned their need into one of the greatest means of making easy money known to humankind. It’s like feeding the monkeys and lions at a zoo — feeding the lizard brain — constant and incessant titillation of the basest human desires and emotions. We’re watching it unfold this weekend in the elections going on in France. The great majority of people have given up expressing their opinions in the polls. Many are expecting the thinking majority, or a sizeable chunk of them, will absent themselves from voting. The election seems to have become a “contest between the extremists”. We saw it in the United States Presidential election — and the world is now living with the consequences. A “high five” for our cherished beliefs in the concept of democracy — and listening to the voices of the common people? Should these events unfolding in the world not be a caution to us that the “common people” are as likely to lead us all back to the jungle, the cave and the swill trough, as much as to the joy-filling sunrises and hope for a more civilised and intelligent future? Perhaps the “high five” should be reserved for the “doubters” — those who are not persuaded by the Trumps, Le Pens, and other “high priests”, including clerical ones, who believe they alone have “all the answers”?

Wishing you a great day wherever you happen to be … in life and in our world.

Brian Coyne



34 Martin Place, LINDEN NSW 2778, Australia

tel: +612 4753 1226


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