Sunday, October 21, 2007
something to believe in
every now + then, actually fairly often, i hear people say that you gotta believe in something.
usually the statement is brought up in the context of a belief in god or religion.
it's usually followed up with another statement along the lines of 'life is meaningless without some sort of faith in something.'
i wonder how true these statements are.
i suspect that there's little to them, frankly.
on the other hand, i wonder how much of life's meaning depends on trust + blind faith.
i heard a preacher once say that every time you sit in a chair, you are exhibiting faith--faith that the chair will hold your weight.
but wait a minute.
i may be making an assumption when i sit in a chair, but is that assumption faith?
won't the chair hold my weight even if i don't have faith in its sturdiness, in which case how does my faith affect the outcome at all?
+ isn't my assumption based on the experience of having seen similar chairs bear the weight of similar bodies?
in short, isn't my assumption based at least in part on evidence + the so-called law of averages?
is that a belief?
+ what if the chair doesn't hold my weight + i fall to the floor?
is the collapsible chair proof that i had too little belief? or that it was a lousy chair? or that i'm putting on way too much weight?
the latter two opinions seem more commonsense than the first.
take another example: i'm intuitive by nature. i'm not scientifically minded, + i'm more oblivious to my surroundings than is normal or healthy.
is my intuition a form of belief?
i have intuitions, quite often good intuitions, good instincts too, but i try not to place unqualified confidence in them.
i operate by intuition in the absence of evidence or in the presence of equivocal contradicting evidence. i'd hardly call this form of decision- or judgment-making a belief system.
+ do my intuitions give my life meaning? perhaps, to the extent that i follow them, they do, in part.
on the other hand, so do forces i am entirely unaware of, over which i have no control, in which my belief + my unbelief weigh exactly the same.
pretty much the meaning of my life derives from the circumstances life tosses me by chance, the decisions i make about those circumstances, + my evaluation of those decisions later in life.
you play the hand that's dealt you. to a certain extent, but only to a certain extent, how you play the hand determines the meaning of your life.
i am not a nihilist. i believe in meaning. i believe it's something we create for ourselves, not find readymade. we create meaning out of necessity, but necessity itself is indifferent to us.
i am not a particularly good rationalist--though given a choice between being reasonable + being trusting, i would prefer to be reasonable.
i suspect, though, that i'm too trusting in spite of myself.
no, i'm not convinced that belief is necessary to me, to humanity.
the course my life takes seems little altered by my optimism or my pessimism.
at this point in my life, optimism + pessimism have had similar rates of success.
it's been 50-50, so far, something you become deeply aware of when you turn 50.
as a rule, i am happier the less i believe.
belief or hope may be comforting in the face of an indifferent universe, but comforting words hardly change the reality.
self-delusion through belief may block out the thunderstorm, temporarily, but in time it blocks out the fresh air too.
unbelief takes my eyes off abstract, unfulfillable ideals + lets me take in my life, unadorned, for what it is, making it possible for me to make smarter decisions that affect my future life + see what may be actually experienced, perhaps less wonderful than what may be hoped for, but there, really there, for me to savor + build upon.
Posted by Joe at 11:34 AM