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So very much of what I experience registers as unbelievable, and this poses a special difficulty for me. Most every object I interact with, everything I see, demands a faith-based acceptance because I simply do not understand it. Each seems too complicated, too subtle, or simply too unlikely to exist, yet there it is. I cannot comprehend how it came into being, even why it survived, so it fully qualifies as unbelievable. Unbelievable without a baseline of faith. Yet as unlikely as it clearly seems, it is, indeed, standing there in front of me.

I do not just speak of the things commonly classified as unbelievable, all the Dick Tracy and Flash Gordon technology, for these represent only the extreme edge of unbelievability. I speak to even the everyday commonplace, the routine incomprehensibles like water or beer. The bush I sit beside. The composite camp chair supporting me this very moment insists upon more belief from me than the old God of Moses routinely demanded.

I might be speaking to my own, deep and abiding cluelessness. Being pretty much uneducated, I have no grounding in the science of anything, but even science seems little more than a series of explanatory stories which utterly fail to adequately explain. Unlocking the human genome might enable much progress without ever elevating the elements analyzed into anything more than the metaphors they started out being. Science might represent no more than the systematic sharing of metaphors, the doxology of which leaves the fundamental mystery intact.

Faith and belief have been battling since before the beginning of time; faith requiring no subsidy to survive, belief demanding supporting evidence. Belief considers faith its indigent cousin because it lives in a rusty trailer when it might insist upon a Taj Mahal. Faith treats belief as overblown because it insists upon showing its work, obsessed with process over outcome. Faith lets it be. Belief insists upon understanding why it is. Faith plays the country mouse to belief’s city dweller.

I suppose the original homo sapien, “man who knows”, thrived on knowledge more faith-based than belief-based. What could he have known? He moved in the world, responding as instinct and perception informed, possessing no encyclopedia, no thesaurus, perhaps no language. Seeing must have been the equivalent of believing then, however astounding the event or object. How could the genome have otherwise survived to today to get torn apart with ever deepening inquiry?

Because I do not know, because I essentially cannot know, I rely upon something other than proof to confirm the existence of things. The concrete my chair rests upon seems no more comprehensible than the computer that glows on my lap, neither offering convincing clues to their composition. They exist without my ability to confirm any of the who, what, or why of their presence, the usual evidence supporting belief. Therefore, they present a paradox. I rely on these things but I cannot comprehend their existence. I understand some of what they’re used for—this supports what I use them for—but I cannot explain their existence because I do not understand it.

The stories I hold about these things seem more fictional than fact-based. I have a variety of notions about how things work, most of which could at best amuse any expert, but my abiding ignorance rarely encumbers me. I can drive The Zoom Car without comprehending any of its inner workings. When it breaks down, I’m as helpful as a circus clown distractedly beeping his bulb horn. I take it to an expert, then rely upon his judgement and honesty, which I must receive as an act of faith because I cannot confirm it any more than I can confirm almost everything else.

While I suppose mankind as a whole knows infinitely much more than did the old Homo Sapien 1.0 model, the individual today seems challenged to live an infinitely more faith-filled existence than old HS1.0 ever had to experience. The Old Testament Faithful were pikers compared to the least of us, for they had no electricity vying for their faithful acceptance. Not even Juicy Fruit
® gum, one of the more abiding modern mysteries: neither juicy nor fruity, and requiring more than a mustard seed-sized faith to consent to put it into your mouth and experience—and I mean really experience—juice and fruit. I could rest my case there, but won’t.

I might believe that the spray can labeled Canola Oil actually contains canola oil, but that belief seems tenaciously faith-based. I’m no chemist. I could not confirm the contents without visiting a chemist and asking her to confirm it for me, though my belief in the chemist’s understanding would have to be faith-based, too. Even if she were a board certified chemist, I’d have to assign a little faith in the certifying board. It might be faith all the way down, so I do not seek confirmation at all. I see the spray can on the shelf, I purchase it (using, by the way, a faith-based currency—In God We Trust), then start indiscriminately spraying it on my sockeye fillet, which, by the way, I accepted on faith as well. What am I, a fish biologist? Cripes!

As we further fragment into teeny specializations we create a society comprised of ever more clueless consumers. We swallow therefore we are. We even swallow enthusiastically, but in so doing, demonstrate more faith than Jesus Freaking H Period Christ ever asked of his disciples. They only needed faith in a future state. We must muster it for our immediate present to exist. Physicists, who seem to have the most mature and consistently-shared metaphors, are insisting that the universe only ever collapses into form when observed. Otherwise, it idles along in some incomprehensible wave state. We are, their understanding insists, unwitting creators of all we experience around us, but I suspect even that constitutes a superficial version of the real story. Even knowing what the physicists know, we either believe it as true or not, with faith tying the knot once again.

Humans might be the only entity capable of boredom. We sometimes immerse ourselves so deeply in our recursive faiths that we misplace the fundamentally wondrous nature of our experience. It’s never commonplace, only apparently so. Ennui might be the most overwhelming evidence of a surfeit of faith, rather than some fundamental absence of it. When deploying faith becomes so frequent, so automatic, it seems to undermine its fundamental wonder, we stop asking the unanswerable question, anticipating the absent response, and fill in wondrous blanks with not nearly so satisfying ones, producing a hollow where a whole might have been.

The politicians ask after whether we’re better off than our forebears were, but they do not refer to the number of wonders we encounter these days, for wonder doesn’t seem to buoy any economy. I could not usefully recreate stone aged technology any more than I could change the freaking battery in my computer. I now have many more things I do not understand than I suspect my great great grandfather ever had. He could perhaps rightfully stride down the street feeling the master of a greater percentage of things than I have any hope of ever mastering, but even his arrogance depended upon his faith.

Our beliefs, whatever they are, seem essentially unsupportable. Even our skills prove mercurial. We hover here on a thin yet remarkably substantial, fundamentally inexplicable, fog. Yet, hover we do. I create this small testament today in the sincere hope that it might help me recapture some of the wonder I misplaced in the simple repetition of my essential faith. My faithfulness sometimes empties me numb rather than overfilling me with well-deserved wonder. May I move through my life hereafter a tad more filled with awe than I have recently felt, and stop trying so danged hard to figure out every doggoned thing. Evidence suggests that figuring out resolves very little, and the very search to understand remands wonder from birthright experience to just out of arm’s reach aspiration again.

It is not that we have so little faith, but that we employ so very, very much of it that sometimes hollows us out so.


©2015 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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