December 25: Day One

There are four elements of meaning I’ve been struggling with lately: vocation, volition, knowledge, and faith. What am I called to do? Do I have a choice? How do I know? How do I act?

I’ve started with the last one.

Faith is a word that is too often used to mean the cognitive acceptance of a set of propositions, a valance synonymous with religious “belief.” The other use of the word is for a hope for a good outcome in spite of evidence to the contrary. This sense of faith sounds like like Kierkegaard’s infinite resignation, the moment before an act of faith.

However, faith is action. The derivative term “confidence” gets as close as any word. David Mamet constructs a biblical sounding formulation in his screenplay for The Verdict: “Act as if ye have faith, and faith will be given to you.”

I think of confidence as a deep sense of knowing how things will turn out even while not knowing how. This sense of faith responds to the question, “How do you know?” with a shrug; the answer is as completely unimportant as how I know that the sun will rise tomorrow.

This faith is not the opposite of reason, nor is it suicidal, cruel, reckless, or dismissive of the limits of the physical world. Yet it is the sort of faith that allows the “leap” associated with acting on it.

I feel this faith intermittently, fleetingly, like lightening forking down through the darkness illuminating for a moment then gone.

I have this faith through tradition, carried in cupped hands like water from generation to generation, imperfectly conveyed but persistent. Family, words, buildings, liturgy, hymns, stories are each mirrors that reflect my faith to others and myself, and allow me to see the reflection of their faith.

December 26: Day Two