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Have a Little Faith

What makes life worth living? It’s different for everybody in the details, but for the most part it boils down to the same things. We all love our families. We all want to be happy. We all yearn to be financially stable. We all have faith in something, be it in God or in Man. And we all want to be surrounded by friends.

Other things can be meaningful, but to individuals more than to the collective We. Religion is the biggest example. There are some people who are very devout in their beliefs, regardless of the faith they subscribe to. It is in fact so important to them that life literally wouldn’t be worth living for them without the comfort of their beliefs.

Belief can take all sorts of forms. For me, faith is belief in the unprovable. An atheist has faith – only their faith is that there is no God, nothing supernatural, merely scientific phenomena we have yet to understand. These people are as fervent in their belief that there is nothing beyond what they know as any Bible-thumping Southern Baptist is in their belief that Christ is their savior. So who’s right?

The point is, it doesn’t matter. Not really. The real important thing is that we have faith, not where we place it. Faith is the thing that motivates us to take leaps into the void because we believe something to be the truth without knowing it to be so. Faith is what led Columbus to take a cruise to the Bahamas, even though he thought he was landing on the shores of India. Mark Twain once defined faith as believing in something even though you know it’s not so. Funny, yes, but not really correct unless you happen to be cynical beyond all redemption (and Twain was). Faith really is believing in something you hope is so despite the possibility that it isn’t.

Faith is what leads to every scientific discovery that we have ever made. We come up with an idea, and believe it to be a good one. Then, we research and build until the idea comes to life, or is proven to be wrong. If Edison didn’t believe he could build a device that would light up our homes without open flames, we would never have gotten the light bulb. Alexander Graham Bell believed it was possible to transmit voices over cables, so he built a telephone. One man believed that all the information of the human experience could be instantly retrieved by our computers. Thank you, Al Gore.

There is more to faith, however, than inspiration. There are things in all our lives that we know are true – generally, it is our own natures, and the things we can prove logically or experience with our senses. There are things that are just as crucial to us, and sometimes even more so, that we cannot say with absolute certainty is true. For example, I have faith in the love and fidelity of my wife. I know that she will always love me and always stay faithful. However, I cannot say with absolute certainty that it is true. I am not her and I do not have her experiences. If George Clooney came ambling through our bedroom door, I think she might be very hard-pressed to remain faithful.

There are circumstances in which her judgment may be impaired and she might do something she ordinarily wouldn’t do. She is a human being, after all, and human beings have a pretty miserable track record at making the right judgment all of the time, statistically speaking. I have faith in her judgment, however and I have faith in her love and fidelity as she has in mine. It is a part of our core system of beliefs, and is a rock we both lean on. For all we know, the rock is a granite slab that will support us all our lives – we sure hope so anyway. Of course, it could be deceptively unstable and shatter at any moment – it happens all the time. That’s not to say that either one of us are thinking of cheating on the other – it’s just to say that our faith is in each other despite the possibility that we could be wrong. That’s what makes it worthwhile – the risk of the pain and suffering that would come with our misplaced faith in the hope we have found something worth believing in.

There is also faith in ourselves. Without it, Olympic athletes would never get out of bed in the morning to practice. NASCAR drivers would all have chauffeurs. We’d never graduate high school and we certainly wouldn’t pass the SAT. Nobody would ever get laid.

There is one guarantee I can give you on the subject of faith and it is this: we as a species know Jack about the Universe and how it works. We learn more all the time, scientifically speaking, and maybe one day some happy physicist with a virtual slide rule and corneal implants that have replaced the tape-repaired dork glasses will prove the existence of God. Maybe not – it really doesn’t matter if we ever find out for sure. The whole point of faith is in the not knowing kids, and without faith, we have no real reason to be here.


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