Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Having faith is touchy stuff.

Sometimes I can believe that the world is running according to some grand plan and that it all makes sense of a sort, and other times it seems like all is madness.

What is faith? Some would say that it is superstition, a belief in something that cannot be seen or touched or verified, whether the adherent has faith in a deity or a grand plan of sorts.

I guess I have faith in nature and its science. Stuff runs. The sun comes up and goes down, the stars dance their way across the heavens, and seeds somehow always know which way to send the roots and which way to send the leaves. And delightfully, this is all done without the consent or approval of humans. There is so much that happens in this world that we try to control. We dam rivers to control flooding, we try to straighten streams and we build sea walls to prevent erosion. Nature doesn't give a darn. The ocean will take what is hers, no matter how much work we put into keeping a particular patch of real estate dry. Rivers will wash away intrusions built too closely along their banks, although downtown Augusta seems to stand resolutely despite nature's efforts to cleanse herself. Up north this spring, the waters of the St. John Valley illustrated precisely what is meant by the term "flood plain." Will it teach people not to build there? Not likely.

I guess I have faith in stupidity as well as nature. The stupidity of humans. We build our shelters in utterly ridiculous places. Mountaintops, flood plains, fault lines, tornado zones. And then we get alarmed when mother nature comes in and puts the smack-down on our efforts. And the kicker here: We rebuild. Of course. Talk about nuts. Oh well. Stupidity, like gravity, seems to be universal.

I saw a marvelous thing last night. I was at a meeting where a guy celebrated 27 years without drinking. He's a great guy, and his wife and daughter were there to help him celebrate with lots of friends. Many of the people in the room had been in the recovery program for nearly as long as this guy, and I was struck by the simple faith of these folks. They do not necessarily believe that there is a white guy with a beard and a lightning bolt who will strike down bad people, but they all had faith of a sort.

They all trust in something they cannot see, they cannot touch, the cannot scientifically verify, to help them through their days. Some were Christian, but not all of them were. In fact, there were many in the room who would probably identify themselves as "unchurched." But they all had faith.

Sometimes, I wonder if my existence is so much fluff and noise. What great difference will my time on this earth make? What lasting impression will be made by my rental of this particular group of hydrocarbons? Is it all for naught? Is it all just an exercise in chemistry, a slow rearranging of atoms on the earth's surface?

I suppose I make an impact of sorts on the people and things around me. I have been told as much. But to what end? What purpose does this life, or any life, have in the grand scheme of things? A hundred years from now, will anyone remember me? Will they remember what I said or wrote or thought? Probably not. A thousand years from now? Certainly not.

So what makes us go on? Faith, maybe? Maybe. Against all reason, I have a feeling that what I do might be important to someone. Even if the only someone is me. I have to believe that there is a reason for all of this stuff we call life, for to stop believing in that would mean an end to any kind of purpose for living. I don't know what the reasons for me being here and now might be, but I can have faith that there is a reason and keep going.

Perhaps my reason for today is to weed a garden that belongs to an elderly woman who used to ride my bus. Maybe my work for her today is what is important. Ok. Maybe my purpose for today is to have lunch with a friend. That might be true as well. It is in my book, so it is in my plan for today. Tomorrow I will jack and level some cabins. It is the humble, necessary work that makes life work for others. That's what I seem to do. And I like it. I like knowing that I have eased people's path through the world, that I have made life more comfortable for them, even if they are unaware of my efforts.

Perhaps it is kindness that I have faith in. Maybe that is the whole reason for everything. I don't know.

Nature and science are a marvel to me. Grass is green, water flows downhill but is drunk up through roots and tendrils, and the most complex chemical processes take place in a leaf smaller than my littles fingernail. Whole ecosystems establish themselves and burn out of existence beneath the shelter of a mushroom cap. And I have nothing to say about it. Nature is amazing stuff. As humans, so are we a part of that nature. We're probably the only part of it that spends so much time thinking about our role in it, but never mind. We are a part of the grand complex thing that is the planet earth. There is much within our command, but far more beyond it. And that is good. It reminds us to be humble. A flood can change our world. Or an earthquake. Or a storm. And yet still we go on. Perhaps it is faith in ourselves, our own importance, that makes us do that. I wonder.

For today, I will weed a garden. I will luncheon with a friend. I will try to clean out the basement. And I will have faith that there is a purpose, that there is a divine order of some kind, and that I am neither in charge of it nor do I need to be.

1 comment:

MRMacrum said...

Nevermind having faith may be touchy, talking about it can be touchy. I find your take refreshing in that your words do not presume a higher power automatically. The word has been hijacked as so many have and has ended up in tandem with religious fervor of some kind.

IMO, faith is belief in purpose that does not necessarily have to punch you in the eye to know it is there.

It can be a belief that an entity has it all worked out for us. Or as you allude to, just a feeling that there is a rythmn and cycle that exists even if we do not see it.

I think we all need faith of some type just to get out of bed in the morning. We need to not worry about why there is grass, air, or the Sun rising. We need to believe these things will always be there. To not have faith in thses things would be a recipe for insanity.