My Faith

A question that comes to me is, what kind of faith is it that you have, or hope to have, in this work or elsewhere?
Is it a confidence in some positive outcome, eventually?
Is it “faithfulness”, or a willingness to act as your truest and deepest impulses lead you, even if you don’t have confidence in a positive outcome?
Or something entirely different?
(Comment from James, Posted 14 Apr 2007)

(Ah! James knows how to ask questions that get to the good stuff!)

I remember being surprised and impressed with myself some years ago when I was talking with a co-worker who was sharing about her sister’s recent stillbirth.
I said: “It has got to be OK.” I’m not sure the remark had any value to her, but it certainly helped me recognize one of the tenants of my thinking.
1. There’s the life of the individual, with a proper focus on staying alive, and giving birth, and being happy, and not getting too bent out of shape by pain and upcoming death.
2. There is the larger life, the life of the community, the life of Gaia.
We live in both. It is silly to think that somehow “me and my child” have existence or meaning apart from community, from Gaia.
Of course the loss of a child is horrible, for those involved, and I don’t mean to counsel against experiencing the pain. (Thinking here of Betsy’s comment, just after James’.)
I think the issues James raises have to do with the over-arching themes like “justice,” “love” and “grace.
But this answer has lost its way. Let me try again.

A question that comes to me is, what kind of faith is it that you have, or hope to have, in this work or elsewhere?

I have started a response to your questions twice before. Each beginning left me with a sense that my answer refers to context I had not provided, and that I needed to start with reference to a larger framework.

I have said several places on this site that Gaia and the larger reality in which she rests are immense beyond human understanding. Now I am going to address that same truth from the approach of my personal experience. One of the metaphors that came to me in meditation this morning was of navigating on the smooth surface of a freshly-frozen pond. “Simple walking” can be full of surprises. And, once you have achieved a certain level of youthful skill, you can run and slide, and move rapidly, even though your legs are immobile. What a wonderful paradox for the young imagination! My experience of reality is like that. Sometimes I try to walk and get only surprises. Other times I seem to move effortlessly. I think my experience points to the nature of human reality: we are amphibious, operating in a world where gravity applies with every step and also in a world where we can have a natural buoyancy, and it’s easy to go “up,” harder to go “down.”

As I try to speak to you out of my experience, I must resort to paradox: On the one hand, I have faith that there is a larger, orienting, context to which I can pay attention, an unseen world.
I believe that, aware or not, I am guided constantly by that context, that field,
and that I can make better choices, for myself and for the planet, if I try to harmonize more closely with it.
And I willingly join my fate with this larger context:
“Thy will be done, not mine.”

On the other hand, at the level of individuals, “life is suffering.” Babies die. Tens of thousands perish in a single earthquake. The world is not a safe place for individual lives, even though Life, as a totality, is tenacious.

Is it a confidence in some positive outcome, eventually?

I do not have confidence in a positive personal outcome. I will die, perhaps painfully, slowly, and disappointed by my friends and myself. I believe these can be “natural” outcomes rather than the result of divine retribution or a miscarriage of cosmic justice.

And yet my faith in –and sense of connection with– the cosmic order is more personal than Spinoza’s affirmation of the big-picture pattern of the universe. I have faith that somehow my human life joins together the individual and cosmic sides of the paradox in a unity too large for us to see clearly.
I have faith that it is worth trying to do things,
that there is meaning in our efforts, and that,
if the wind is right, our efforts may bring us into good fortune we would not otherwise have.

Is it “faithfulness”, or a willingness to act as your truest and deepest impulses lead you, even if you don’t have confidence in a positive outcome?

Yes, that’s what it is. Except that I would not call them “MY truest and deepest impulses.” I believe the impulses I carry are transpersonal. I do not identify them as “mine,” and I do not believe I act for myself alone.

I addressed these ideas a few years ago in the context of Jesus and Christ.

About Richard O Fuller

Quaker, living in the Twin Cities, Minnesota.
This entry was posted in 'Divine Action' and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to My Faith

  1. Richard,

    Unexpectedly, I see an interesting connection between Betsy’s comment and my own. They both relate to acknowledging the reality of losses in our own limited, human lives, in contrast (but not contradiction, I think) with your global perspective.

    The fact that an outcome is genuinely difficult, even shattering, for us as individuals or as a species, does not necessarily mean that outcome is wrong, or bad, on a global level. The needs of the ecosystem as a whole are often distinct from our own needs. This is true, and important to recognize. I’m not even sure what “good” means outside of the minds of sentient creatures.

    It is even possible–on a scale of eternity, unavoidable–that we will get to the point where earth is done with us as a species.

    No question, there are terrible, tragic losses in the cards for us. However terrible those tragedies on a human level, life on earth will probably survive, for millennia, perhaps far longer. A few million years from now there may be a completely different species struggling with questions similar to the questions we are struggling with here.

    So, how do we find our way, as individuals and as a species, between fully acknowledging the great losses that have taken place and will take place, working toward a better world as best we can, and recognizing our humble and temporary place in the whole grand scheme?

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