On Faith

merida-cathedralI’m growing to believe that the matter of faith is much bigger than any religion, or all religion. It seems to me that faith satisfies a fundamental human need to reside within a continuum which provides a context for our everyday existence. It is important, I feel, to have faith, because faith concedes, in some way, that humanity is not the sole content of the universe, but a piece of it. However, while it may be helpful and healthy to place one’s faith in something, because faith is, by definition,”a complete trust or confidence” (complete here indicating there can be no place for reservation), we would do well to choose our objects of faith carefully. Certainly human institutions, our socio-political systems, are out of the question here. Anyone who harbors no reservations about the trustworthiness of a human institution is destined to, at best, be disappointed. With this in mind, God is an excellent choice, being by definition, perfect (if mysterious to the point of near-menace at times), but there are other good options too: science, love, or the howling void, to name a few.

Me? I have faith in what we perceive as time and space, in this evident order that has arisen, counterintuitively, from the disorder of nothingness. I believe that any sufficiently large and complex system is capable of, for a time, manifesting a pattern. We can call this pattern God, I certainly don’t mind, though I find it presumptuous to assign such a specific, connotation-laden name to something we can’t, by nature, ever hope to define specifically. Instead, I call this pattern spirituality, another terrible word full of connotations, but its closer. Spirituality is a sense of connection, of purpose, the whispers of emergent structure in the noise, the idea that time and space may not have an intended function, but they do have a concrete shape, with which we are, in some small way, entwined.

Though this view significantly minimizes our place in the world around us (most faith does, that’s the comfort in it), faith is not meant to be an excuse for passivity. An understanding of one’s part in things is a source of strength to be drawn upon. Though they share many letters, faith is not fate. Faith is not a resolution, it is not an outcome. Faith is a set of axioms that influence our viewpoints and affect our choices. Faith is but the first step, the next is acceptance, and then understanding, and then, penultimately, action. Without action, after all, faith is a hollow concept, a frail panacea. And so, in accordance with my faith, I work to inhabit a connected world, a miraculous world sprung mysteriously from chaos. Though we seem intent on proving otherwise, life is wondrous, and that’s the faith I act upon, that’s the faith that tells me how to treat others. The firm conviction that something as miraculous as being alive can and should be a positive experience for every living creature is the faith I live by, with complete trust and confidence, with total adherence, even though many things I see and experience insist, vehemently, otherwise.