So I’m a words guy. I love words. I love them like a stereotype loves what they are thought of to love too much. But sometimes, I feel they are abused. I had a revelation today about the word “try”. Yoda says, “Do or do not; there is no try.” The heart of the advice is solid: give it your all, a defeatist mindset will get you nowhere. But the phrasing is bad. What if I Did, and it failed? Isn’t that “a try”? I want to call attention to another definition of the verb, related to “a trial”: to test something. When someone is on trial, they are being tested against evidence. When something is tried and true, it means it has been tested and deemed reliable. I want to take back the word try, and have it mean test your skills in something. In this way, all you can do is try – but it’s not a half-hearted attempt, it’s a full-fledged challenge. Isn’t that more pleasant? Because as it is, “try” is kind of a sad word, like the people who use it and say, “Well, I tried…” and give up.
This is just an example. I could list more, like “literally,” or even like “like”. But the word I think has been the most shamefully disfigured is “faith.” In the Age of Science, “Faith” is a bad word. Certain people use it but among the “elite” you better watch it or get your tongue bitten off. When people (as we did collectively in the last few hundred years) secularise themselves, they throw the baby out with the bathwater and anything spiritual is taboo. Now obviously not everyone is like this, but either you are or you know lots of people who are. The word “Faith” goes with this. Suddenly it’s stupid and ignorant to have faith. But let’s examine for a moment what exactly faith is.
Christian capital-F Faith is more or less synonymous with “Belief”. “I’ve lost my faith,” an ex-Catholic might say. You Believe there is a Higher Power named God or Elohim or Yahweh or Jehovah and He had a Son who Died for our Sins then Resurrected and Ascended to Heaven. But it’s not just belief – hell, I can believe in something and not have faith in it, just look at Montreal Drivers. “I’ve lost my faith in Montreal Drivers,” a guy buying his first Opus card might say. So if you don’t have faith… what does that mean for you, on a larger scale?
Reading half of Joseph Campbell’s Thou Art That: Understanding Religious Metaphor has given me a lot of insight into religion and its purpose. Every great philosopher, mathematician, artist and saint has experienced a similar thing: a connection to a mysterious force lying under, or behind, or outside of our perception of reality. It evades description! It is mysterious by its very nature. It doesn’t want to be described. So, the best way to do it is with metaphor.
Religions like Christianity do their best (maybe) with metaphor to describe this Mysterium Tremendum. Why? Because it is life. Because if we explore it, accept it, and interact with it, we can lead a full, happy life. Because having faith in the universe can have profound effects on your life. “Ask and ye shall receive” does not limit itself to human relationships. “Knock and the door shall open.” Ever heard of Synchronicity? No, not that Synchronicity. Sometimes, it’s simple: we hear about a concept for the first time, and then again, in the same day! Sometimes it’s life-changing: we secretly want to go into theatre, and we just happen to befriend the one person who would convince you to do it, then get accepted to the first theatre program you apply to. You’ve experienced it. You might call it coincidence. I say, God isn’t that lazy. The Universe is a living thing just like us. And it listens.
Imagine being able to bank on that? Knowing that if you step off the cliff something will catch you? “That guy just got a lucky break.” No, he got prepared for an opportunity, which then presented itself, and he jumped in. You can harness the power of the universe, of the Mysterium Tremendum, if you allow yourself to have Faith.
But having Faith is ignorant. Well I guess if you still believe that at this point you should stop reading. “I lost my faith in Scientific Absolutism,” an ex-Atheist might say.
Let’s bring it back from the cosmic to the personal. If I can have faith in the Universe, it becomes a lot easier to have faith in smaller structures. I have faith that the Canadian people will not elect another (read: the same) criminal mastermind for a third time. I have faith that no one will run a red light while I’m crossing the green. I have faith that no one will steal this bike if I leave it unattended for an hour without a lock.
You probably think, “Well, at least THAT faith is ignorant. I’ve had my bike stolen, and it had a lock!” Well, isn’t that a self-defeating attitude? People refuse to trust other people, which creates tension, and then those people do bad things, which gives the initial mistrusters proof their mistrust was valid. It is a vicious cycle, but it can be broken! Universal love – understanding that everyone is just the same, and embracing everyone, including ourselves, for everything they are and have done and will do – is the only way to a bright future where we live happily ever after in space. I believe it’s possible, but it has to happen on an individual level. And if one person doesn’t do it, our unity is lost, and we will always return to the backstabbing, power-hungry ways that have defined our last 4,000 years.
Having faith in our fellow human is a liberating and empowering state. It will bring you higher self-esteem, good fortune, and pride. It takes practice, of course. Start simply: read a self-help book like Psycho-Cybernetics which will teach you how. And if enough people get there, well, we might just reach the Star Trek age.
Faith is a tool that can be used for good (on an individual basis) and bad (organised religion). Pick it up and wield it for a while. See if it fits your grip. You won’t be sorry.
If it doesn’t, hey. At least you tried, right? 😉
Thanks for reading. Stay connected.