A while ago, I was chatting with a friend about her future prospects. She had just resigned from a long-term job, and been offered a similar role in a sister company. While she was pleased she had something to go to, there was a nagging feeling that it wasn’t the right move. I suggested that perhaps a leap of faith might be the order of the day, and she didn’t look convinced. Later, when I was thinking about the conversation, I decided that it is difficult to have faith in this age of cynics (and I am one). Then I thought: what is faith? How do we construct it? And how is it sustained? And I don’t mean faith in the God sense; I mean faith in the “I know things will be ok in the end” sort.
Alain de Botton (in his TV show The Architecture of Happiness, I think it was) declares that pessimists have a better time of life because if the worst happens, they are prepared for it – life turns out exactly as they expect; and if things turn out better than expected, then it’s a bonus. I’m not a pessimist, and I wish I was, because, according to de Botton, I would probably be living a happier life.
Buddha also said in Four Noble Truths that existence is suffering, and the cause of suffering is desire. So if one has faith, does that mean one suffers? And I’m not asking this in a disingenuous way, but in a philosophical sense, because surely having faith means that you want (or desire) something to happen: that you’ll get that job, that everything to be ok, that he or she will call, that you won’t lose your house, that your cancer will be cured, that the bullying will stop…
Viktor Frankl said that when we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. So is faith an essential part of the human spirit that, despite religion and philosophy and politics and ideology, prevails and is part of what makes us human? Is faith so ingrained in us, that despite the direst of circumstances and overwhelming evidence to the contrary, there is a spark that tells us we will prevail?
I don’t know the answers to these questions, but it’s certainly something to ponder.