On Faith

It’s an ironic fact of life that by trying to add to what you don’t have and subtract from what you do have, in an effort get better and beyond your suffering, you more often than not re-create conditions that perpetuate the same sense of neediness that drove you to conduct that initial effort in the first place. It would seem that nothing is ever enough at the same time that everything is too much to bear.

In light of these immiserating conditions, all we can do is to learn how to rest content with the fact that we don’t have what we want and that we have what we don’t want, by reminding ourselves of the conviction that there’s no real reason — logical or causal — for why everything should go the way we want it to go, and become better poised to deal directly with the particularity of our conditions and act accordingly with the care and concern that is required of them. Then, it might even be possible to eventually get to the point where it doesn’t even matter, practically and experientially speaking, that you may not get what you might want or that you may have what you wouldn’t want, because now the state and inner sense of your own being is completely independent of what happens to happen to you. And so you choose to be blissful, no matter the circumstances that you may come across, because you have achieved real freedom from feeling afflicted.

Most people don’t want to recognize that the conditions in which they find themselves are quiet particular and peculiar to their own historical, social and individual standpoints, so they fail to deal with their problems at the level of attentiveness and care that is required of them. We often attach ourselves to identities because we find refuge in their generality and purported universality: whether it’s refuge in the sense of belonging with a community that falls under that category, the sense of feeling sheltered from things you don’t want to be associated with, or the sense of having real knowledge about what and who you really are.

As beautiful and as wretched as identity categories can be, with the benefits they may give and harms they might inflict, they simply obscure the reality of who we truly are. In order to see our own reality clearly, we have to look directly at it with sheer, naked awareness — independent of and free from all the categorical, conceptual proliferations that we’ve accrued over long, long periods of time in order to feel sheltered and protected from the rawness of what is really going on. But if we have faith that everything is going to be OK (even if it’s not quite like how we might expect), then we can relax and allow the conceptual walls that we’ve conjured up over eons to consolidate our own safety collapse and turn into pathways bridging the seemingly infinite chasm between the blinded and hurt reality we live in today and the awakened and blissful reality that is promised to come.

I cannot give you this faith, and neither can anyone else, because to have faith in the idea that everything is going to be OK is to also have faith in yourself, and your own capacity to be an integral part of that very process. If you truly understand yourself for who you really are, then you know that there is no real distinction between who you are as a living, breathing, feeling, thinking organism and the wider Earth and cosmos that makes your individual existence possible. In this way, having faith in yourself is one and the same as having faith in the whole universe and everyone in it, because to every extent at every scale, we’re all in this together.

Faith does not work logically: it is paradoxical.

If you don’t have faith in yourself, then you don’t have faith in the wider cosmos, and if you don’t have faith in the wider cosmos, then you don’t have faith in yourself — in either case you really bring the world one step closer to the fulfillment of the very operating assumption that lead you to deny faith: that everything might or will not be OK.

If you do have faith in yourself, then you also have faith in the wider cosmos, and if you have faith in the wider cosmos then you have faith in yourself — in either case you really bring the world one step closer to the fulfillment of the very understanding that lead you to have faith: that everything will be OK.

It does not matter which way is “true” or not, because the paradox of faith is that it always ends up being true even when it proves to be false, because of the circular nature of it being a self-fulfilling prophecy, and of the circular nature of it assuming the conclusion that is to be proved in advance. This seems irrational, but really it is trans-rational in that its significance lies solely in how it functions and not what it might imply about the actual nature of things.

Faith is not contrary to reason — they just work in different ways that are appropriate to their respective contexts: reason helps you work with what you can account for, while faith helps you work with what you can’t account for. We can also reason about faith while also having faith in reason, and in this way we can understand that faith and reason are not just not opposed but also have the potential to be dynamically complimentary and mutually reinforcing.

In light of this understanding, how could you have a lack in faith, and why would you not seek out ways in which you might strengthen it? Because to participate in faith — having faith in yourself, or faith in the wider cosmos — would be to bring us all one step closer to the great communion where we will all mutually rejoice in the fact that not only is everything OK and as it should be, but that it is more than anyone could have ever anticipated.