I have been “accused” that I am trying to get to faith through an intellectual exercise and that I will never get there. I neither agree, nor disagree. Regardless of the outcome, the road is worthwhile.
According to the dictionary, faith is defined as:
- Complete trust or confidence in someone or something.
- Strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.
For a very long time I have thought of myself as having no faith. I do not blindly believe in anything. I do not completely trust or have confidence in anybody unless we have a long history of mutual trust and confidence. And my belief in God … let’s just say that I have a hard time not believing in God and just as hard a time believing.
There are two people I have, by definition, faith in; one of them is my wife, the other Guido Tenenbaum. My wife has shown a level of support that is unparalleled. She is a fantastic lady and she has always been there for me and no matter what; she has my back. I have known Guido for 30 years. He has had my back, and I his for a long, long time. In spite of the definition, I never considered having faith in them, but them being just part of the fabric of my life. Yes, I take their presence, their actions, their everything that has to do with me, for granted. But in the same way, my “devotion” to them is also always there. They are a constant presence in my life.
Then there is my father. Unfortunately he is no longer with us. He has actually not been with us since 1997. And if you count the length of his illness, for much longer. He was an intellectual who believed in the intrinsic goodness of people. All people are good until they are not. You can say he had faith in people, in humanity. As I mentioned in a previous post, I miss my father. There is not one day that goes by that I do not think of him. There are a lot of things I miss about him, especially his outlook on people, which I do not share. He is ever present in my thoughts; and his position on faith always brings confrontation within me. My father was not just a great man, he was a powerful presence with the ability to influence people. The conflict comes from the fact that I do not see the goodness in people; nor do I see the evil in them. I just see people. They are just there. They exist. I come in contact with them and most of them leave nothing or very little in me. A handful have left a profound impacts in me – good and bad. But it is not a matter of faith. People are people; they come they go. There is nothing to believe or not to believe.
I took a cue from my father’s book. Even though he had some form of faith, he also believed that you became enlightened through the intellectual pursuit. To him, the continuos questioning and counter-questioning was key to finding truth, if there is such a thing. I inherited his ability to quickly go through scenario after scenario and what-ifs; the ability to imagine and visualize problems, solutions, outcomes, paths and all of the forks in the road from start to finish. When I consider the question of faith, my mind goes into high gear. I start to consider all the “options” and “outcomes” that come with faith.
Faith is not all about religion, but normally it is discussed in the context of religion and dogma; along with these we need to discuss practices and rituals. What I basically call “purposeful meaningless actions”.
I define meaningless action as doing something in a repetitive way until you get with the swing of things and it becomes second nature or part of your set of beliefs. The funny thing is that I perform a purposeful meaningless action every day. I wake up every day and put on Tefilin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tefilin), and read a few passages from the Siddur (prayer book – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siddur). For all practical purposes we can define this activity as “purposeful meaningless action”, but then you will need to call meditation also “purposeful meaningless action”. Somedays, it is really hard to go through the ritual of meditation, especially in this form.
I struggle with understanding these actions every day. Not the dogmatic meaning but the effect it has on people. What is the purpose of this all? just taking a part of the day for yourself? And if you believe in God, then to commune with God? In the end this is just another form of meditation and meditation works for me. Even when it is a challenge to concentrate; especially when it is a challenge.
I remember the last conversation I had with my father before he totally lost his ability to communicate. He said:
“If I were to do it again, I would be a religious Jew. When science in intellectuals get “there”, wherever “there” is, religion and faith are “there” already waiting.”
I guess my father found faith through intellectuality after all. But I will have to take my path and time to realize where “there” is for me. And regarding faith, I remain faithless. It does not mean that I profess no religion, but my belief is not blind and complete. My doubts lead me to questions and in some cases answers.
Whomever said “ignorance is bliss” should be given a medal.