By Johnathon Lee
I don’t understand why—knowing what we know—most of us keep going. Why keep going?
Religion and spirituality are time-honored buffers against the abyss, but Nietzche said that, “God is dead.” The sciences have shown us a universe that can exist without the supernatural. Agnosticism is the only rational choice when medicine usually works and faithing usually doesn’t.
Rationality is a virtue; it helps us survive. Yet so does faith, doesn’t it? Rationality’s comfort is cold. Logic, when we follow through with it, always leads to nihilism. When you’re in the Nihil, your options are 1) Grab back onto the faith life raft 2) Keep flailing and drowning 3) Learn to float.
Faith can keep us from drowning. It can make us feel like we’re flying.
We can muster up faith in a lot of things; God is just one of them. We can have faith that we’ll win the lottery, find our soul mates, or do something great that we will be remembered for.
Sometimes we just have faith that tomorrow will be better than today. Sometimes there are only tomorrows.
But candles always go out and aromas always fade. Everything ends. Altars splinter, statues crack, hymns always pass into silence. Knowing this, how can anyone have faith in faith? Faith is reasonable because it’s an adaptation that keeps us going, but we use faith in unreasonable ways. What reasonable adult would believe something without valid evidence? That’s not a good survival mechanism.
“Don’t worry, Og; lions can’t hurt you!”
“Yaaay, I no need run from lions! Yaaay!”
“Roar!” Og dead.
Yet, unsound faith lives on. Maybe it’s because the faithless are persecuted.
There’s strength in numbers, and for there to be numbers, each person needs to have faith in their tribe. Those without faith, or with a different faith, are threats because they destabilize group think. That usually weakens the group.
Group think limits diversity. Uniformity is a great for quick bursts of creation and destruction, but it can’t help us adapt to new situations. Uniformity is like having a hammer; diversity is like having a toolbox. Situations always change. How can you have faith in something that changes? The only reasonable thing to have faith in is change.
So, what’s the point? Why even get out of bed? We’re going to have good days and bad days, but when impermanence is the only thing we can count on, doesn’t that mean even the good days are ultimately bad?
Losing something hurts worse than never having it. Before we love, we’re unaware of empty space in our lives. When our loved one is gone, we’re all too aware of the hole in the world. As the years go on, it’s like we’re swimming in a sea of holes.
Nothingness devours everything. Even the greatest scientific achievements will be erased one day. It’ll be like they never even happened. It’ll be like our lives never happened. Right? Well, no. Not really. I mean yes, totally, but not presently. There are absences in the past and future, but there’s only the present in the present. Even those absences, the spaces where people used to be, are present. After all, if something’s absence wasn’t present, then it wouldn’t be absent. Ha!
It seems like the present is always coming from nothing and returning to nothing, yet there’s really no such thing as nothing.
“Nothing” can’t be a thing; it’s the hypothetical opposite of a thing. What we’re really experiencing what we call “nothing,” is openness.
From the open moment things come, within it they are, and into it they go. Like dipping a cup into the ocean and then pouring it back in. Don’t be afraid of the pour; see that it’s always been the ocean. The present is forever. It’s unreasonable to have faith in eternal oblivion when oblivion, by definition, can’t even exist.
We can have faith in the present. Change is the essence of being, and being is the existence of change. Knowing that, what do we do? Float. It’s all okay. There’s nothing to gain or lose; there’s just the experience of Suchness.
I know that even this realization won’t keep me safe from the ache, but it gives me the passion to ache fully, and that’s how we let go. Don’t stop letting go. Don’t stop pouring your cup. Only when we pour it is there space to fill it again. This turns life into something beautiful, at least from the inside. That’s good because we can only live within ourselves. Unable to exist outside of yourself, it’s reasonable to have faith in you.
So, knowing what we know, we keep feeling and trying. We keep living and keep finding reasons to live.
May you feel joyed, loved, and at ease.
Editor: Dana Gornall
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