Being the sort of person that I am (the sort that thinks way too damn much)," says GreenCanary, "I can say with certainty that uncertainty blows."

What sort of uncertainty is she talking about? The vacillations of the market? The convulsions of the culture? The dissembling of our ostensible leaders? (Actually, that's pretty close to a certainty these days.) None of the above. She's going straight to the top:

I was raised to believe certain things, to think a certain way. The ideologies and theologies of my parents were never forced upon me, but they were an unquestioned way of life. When it came to religion, I believed what they believed, even if my mind could not wrap itself around the mysteries of miracles, the possibility of the impossible. My heart always longed for the Greater, the Bigger, the In Charge. I wanted to have that fire in my belly, that passion that others had. I wanted to KNOW that what I believed was TRUE.

As I've gotten older, I've begun to question everything. I question myself, I question God, I question other people's Gods, I question The Cat. Asking, asking, asking and the only answers I've gotten aren't so much anwers as they are more questions.

Were the universe neatly organized for maximum irony, this would be the point where her breathing is supposed to falter, and Darth Vader would be intoning, "I find your lack of faith disturbing." But that very statement presumes that questioning is somehow equivalent to a lack of faith, and I am not so persuaded: I believe, for what it's worth, that the more solid your convictions, the more likely you are to be totally off the mark.

In part, this is because the mark is something not of this world: it exists simultaneously everywhere and nowhere, and just when we think we've nailed it down, we find it's moved somewhere else. Except that it hasn't actually moved; we have. We're just not used to seeing in these terms — except that we are:

For example, when you look at the letters on a page, you actually make them invisible by looking through and beyond them to the words they spell. Likewise, the words are equally invisible, because you look through them to the meaning they are pointing at. You could undertake a chemical analysis of the ink with which the words are printed, but that would take you no closer to their meaning. Rather, it would take you far in the opposite direction, completely destroying their meaning.

Faith and knowledge are related, but they are not the same thing: if they were, there'd be no need for two different words. At the heart of knowledge is belief, while at the heart of faith is the willing suspension of disbelief:

In order to enjoy a play or movie, we must temporarily forget that it is "just a movie," and fully abandon ourselves to its world. Through a process of "unknowing," we eliminate the barrier between us and the aesthetic or spiritual world, and convert that barrier into a transformational space, where the other world makes contact with our imagination. Or, you could say that we must become a mirror, without which the reflected object disappears.

It is less important, I submit, to worry about, for instance, the order of precedence of the 613 prescriptions and/or proscriptions of the Levitical covenant, than to trust that God will not deal you a hand He thinks you can't play. Your final exam will not be graded on the basis of how well you were able to parrot individual lines of Scripture.

If I seem awfully, um, certain on that last point, well, there's always the possibility that I could be totally wrong. All of us, to some extent, wonder if we're singularly incompetent and unprepared for life. If I could tell you that you grow out of it, I would. But I suspect that the converse is true: it grows out of you. What a conundrum!

So while I have faith, I think, I must admit to the occasional twinge of doubt. And I think of Thomas, he who doubted, not because he was having a crisis of faith, but because the reality of the matter was so far beyond anything he was prepared to imagine. Sometimes it takes a sign from the heavens to get our attention.

The Vent

  22 June 2009

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