Thursday, November 27, 2014

Faith Gap

While going through a difficult time a friend said to me those oft-said words, “It will all be okay.” A time honored cliché but as I heard the words and appreciated the sentiment, I couldn’t help myself from thinking that, “no, there’s a good chance things won’t be okay.” The usual follow-ups include, “Everything happens for a reason,” “When one door closes another opens,” or if particularly religious, “God does not give you what you cannot handle.” All of these comments lean on a shared belief that there are benevolent powers in the universe that have your best interest in heart.

However, I’ve come to realize that I have a faith gap. I do not believe in a benevolent universe. I find no comfort in trusting in God, Karma, or the Secret.  Rather I believe the universe to be amoral, random, and thus merciless in what it tends to serve up to anyone. I’ve seen enough friends and family members go from a bad situation to worse, and while I can maybe spot a silver lining here and there, they are often meager consolation prizes for what once was.

Of course this doesn’t stop me from saying those same words when bad luck falls on my own friends and family. Perhaps there’s a part of me that hopes their faith still is strong. Because let’s face it that faith enables them to endure more and suffer less. It alleviates the worries of future uncertainties. Like the levitating powers of fairy dust, it works if you believe it – I just can’t bring myself to believe in it.

Despite my lack of faith, I find great wisdom in the serenity prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can, . Easy enough it would seem, but my faith gap is sometimes a roadblock to acceptance. Without trust that someone or something is taking care of things on my behalf, I’m left to game out all the worst-case scenarios – worrying about the future instead of accepting it as something beyond my control.

Where I do have faith, it’s in myself. To quote Nietzsche, “that which doesn’t destroy me, makes me stronger.” Whatever my circumstances, I still can make the best of it. Sometimes the only thing that I can change is myself, or my attitude. Isn’t that the secret to existential bliss? Or is that simply a delusion?  Applying the serenity prayer seems to always be a work in progress.

I suppose I do have faith beyond myself – I tend to have faith in other people. I believe other people generally strive to do the right thing – to be “good.” Unfortunately that “good” can become ill defined in the most well intentioned of people. Still I do have faith that taken outside of their fears and prejudices most people will help others in need.

I think luck plays a greater role in our lives than we feel comfortable to acknowledge. In that respect I have already been extremely fortunate. Believe me, I’m well aware of my privilege. Just open any news feed (or history book) and I know at once how fortunate I am. The worst of my troubles are nothing in comparison, and yet I still can’t seem to take comfort in my privilege. Again, it seems a random quirk that could reset at any time.

I suppose this is where the leap of faith comes in. In the unknowable future of the unknowable universe anything is possible, accept this and put my best foot forward. Whether a benevolent force exists or not I will continue moving until I stop. Faith provides momentum.

1 comment:

  1. I share your lack of faith in any higher power. I had a message of sorts one night from the universe, which seems to be alive, but doesn't really care what we do or don't do. It doesn't care if we worship it, or not. It is a force, and I find myself working to align myself with the .... "cosmic" flow of sorts, since swimming with a current is easier than swimming against one, but there is no assumption that it's listening.

    I also share your faith in other people, that most people do try to do good. That is heartening, to see people doing good.

    Personally, when it all hits the fan, I rely on being able to pick up the pieces, whatever it is that's left, and see what's left. Maybe that's the Scandinavian part of me, maybe it's from growing up in the Midwest, but that's how we react to a crisis or a disaster. We're not happy that the disaster happened, but there's always a bit of something that's left to rebuild with.