This commonsense phrase refers to the futility of attempting to clean while dust is still filling the air. It also has within it all the truth anyone needs to know to live a peaceful, happy life. Like much folk wisdom, it transforms an everyday activity into a universal truth. The saying has been applied to what often occurs when a group of individuals begin to solve a challenging situation. In this case, the “dust” symbolizes all the opinions, expectations, demands, political posturing, personal views, pre-conditioned ideas, etc. that seem to need to be expressed before a clear view of the issue and it’s solution can be seen.
The phrase applies equally well within a single individual. The very nature of a “challenging” situation reveals that there is the “dust” of expectations, personal history, assumptions and fears, preventing a clear view of the issue.
What a relief it is to know that what is needed is to just let the dust settle. There is no amount of convincing, cajoling, maneuvering or influencing that will elevate the “dust” to something that will lead to a real solution. It is just dust.
There are two things we need to know in order to “let the dust settle.” First, we need to know that clarity will arise when the dust settles. Secondly, we need to know that the dust is just dust, and that it will settle if our attention is withdrawn from it. If we don’t know these two truths yet, we can at least hypothesize that it might be true and be willing to experiment to find out for our selves.
Once the futility of mucking around with the dust is discovered, the “experimental” approach becomes worth trying.