It’s not just a pretty word lit up on the exterior of Macy’s in NYC’s Herald Square. It’s a weighted word that carries a great deal of value and wisdom and, depending on whom you ask, can even help define your idea of faith.
This word came up again and again during a lively Christmas dinner conversation with family and some new friends. A group of educated, creative, and open-minded people of all religions, generations, and cultural backgrounds - what a treat to be surrounded with such diversity!
Of course, the conversation was philosophical, historical, scientific, and political. The idea of belief came up in the context of belief that there is enough common sense and goodness in the human race that despite what we think about the current political climate, situations may worsen, but we resilient humans will ultimately be okay. We’ve faced a number of severe challenges in the history of life as we know it.
On the other hand… what about doubt? While listening to a recent podcast featuring Leslie Hazleton, author of The First Muslim, I came to the conclusion that the best of us are doubters. This is what makes us human. There needs to be a sense of urgency in order to inspire right action. Otherwise, if we always felt that everything is going to be alright all the time then what purpose would we have in speaking our minds? In sharing opinions and standing up for what we believe?
And what does it mean to believe? It’s something that we have confidence in. For those of us who do not identify with a particular religion and put their faith in inquiry and a sense of mystery, perhaps belief is a practice of faith. To determine what you have confidence in is a starting point for mapping out your values and system of beliefs. For example, I have confidence in the scientific method, and in the natural evolution of humans and animals, and in the need for us as a human race to regularly connect with each other and feel love.
Are we fortunate or at a disadvantage to be able to record and remember every detail of our angst and elation and repeat the experience as many times as we can press play? In this hyper-documented world it can be overwhelming. All the more reason, I believe, to retreat from the media once in a while (the woods or mountains are a great place for that because you don’t get service!) and dive inward. Take stock each year of what you’re confident in and see how these beliefs may change or develop.
The end of the year is the perfect time for that. Be bold. Be brave. Believe.