What I’ve Learned This Year About Faith
Disclaimer: this post is going to be about faith. I will not be talking about religious faith — though I’m sure some of the language will be seasoned with phrases which bring that feeling about. This is not my intent. Rather, I am talking about personal faith: the real faith; the only truly tangible kind of faith that we desire.
It’s easy to sit down on your worst day and bemoan your reality. I know this firsthand, because I have spent countless nights doing just that. Sometimes we are acutely aware of the holes in our lives, of the effort required to end up where we want to be, of every passing second representing a piece — however small — of our lives squandered in the dark.
This is all a part of happiness.
Aurelius taught us that “within is the wellspring of good, and it will ever bubble up if thou shalt ever dig.” I interpret this in two ways. Firstly, you must always be aware that an innate desire to be happy exists within you, and given the chance, any one of us could spring up into our new, fulfilled life if we just knew where to dig. Secondly, Aurelius places no limit on the happiness and goodness achievable by one person. He tells us that it will indeed forever bubble up, if one can just find a shovel and start digging.
The flaw in the simplicity of this statement lies within the metaphor. I want to dig. We all want to dig. Unfortunately, we need to find something to dig with. Unlike Aurelius, I do not believe we are born with the shovel. To him, and the other stoics, the shovel is positive thinking. Positive thinking is a tool which helps a lot, but it does not solve our problem here. Shovels exist independently of the digger, and appear independently of the digger’s effort. This brings me to my point about faith: there are shovels out there, but looking for them with all your might is usually a waste of your time.
Has anyone ever told you — particularly with respect to dating — that you you’ll have better luck finding your soulmate if you’d stop looking so hard? Well, they’re mostly wrong; you definitely increase your chances by using a lot of effort to look. That being said, one can frustrate his or herself into being consciously aware of the failures which are leading to occasional success. This can make the feeling of finding less fulfilling than basically stumbling upon something by chance. In my mind, being ready to dig is infinitely more important than looking for a shovel. This can be applied to careers, school, dating… anything really.
The reason I have so much faith in the shovel out there for me when I’m ready to dig: I’ve held it in my hands before. The fundamental concern involved bemoaning our lives is that we have oftentimes never experienced the feeling we seek, thus it appears unattainable. This isn’t a flaw in logic, it’s a rather unsavory trait about humans themselves. We all do it.
I had something that made me feel fulfilled. I will tell you candidly that I felt like I had life all figured out. I had what I always wanted; I had a plan to keep it forever. That feeling was indescribable, and I would do anything to go back in time just so I could feel it. Long story short: I lost the thing that gave me that feeling. I do, however, have faith that I will feel this feeling again. Here’s why:
They say “don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” This is absolute bullshit. Go ahead, cry because it’s over. If you were really happy, the fact that it’s over absolutely sucks, and you have every right to cry like a baby until you can’t cry any more. Go ahead. I sure did.
When I was done with all that crying, I realized something. I will not smile just because it happened, I will smile because it’s going to happen again. The pain and hollowness we feel when we are in the depths of recovery, or the depths of speculation concerning the thing we all want, is not doubt. It is uncertainty.
Uncertainty is different from doubt, because in this state we are not actively expecting not to find what we seek, we are simply wondering how and when we will find it again. We have to convince ourselves to be consumed not by uncertainty of whether or not, but instead by uncertainty of when and where. This is how we show our faith, and this is how we put yourself in a position to find the shovel which allows you to dig. Preparedness and optimism can go hand in hand if you have patience, and you have faith.
Panicking about not having what you want is bad. Searching for something you aren’t ready to find yet leads to missed opportunities. Throwing your hands up and giving up brings a person unneeded negativity. That said, action does not always add to the probability of finding what you seek. Action, as a whole, will make you feel worse while you rest in limbo. My point is: only faith allows you to seek Aurelius’s proposed wellspring of good, and be content without a shovel.
Now that you’ve read all of my jargon, I will lay out my point for the TL;DR folks. We all get sad, and we all feel like life isn’t going to work out for us. This is because we all have dreams and desires we want to achieve in the future. The default feeling is to be hopeless that these things are too hard to find, or we are too unlucky, because we don’t have them yet. Until I found one of my ultimate prizes, I felt that despair too. I am telling you from personal experience that finding those things you seek is a combination of preparedness and luck, and the only way to keep yourself sane is to have faith in your future. You may be seeking something for the first time, you may want to get something back that you had (just like me). Either way, the only logical and rational statement is not to be hopeless, but to continue your life with a good attitude saying “I believe it will happen to me. It is worth the wait. Life is a journey, and I will find what I seek.”
Jackson Browne, one of my favorite songwriters of all time, said it as eloquently as four lines could manage. He said: “I can see those dark clouds gathering up ahead. They’re gonna wash this planet clean like the Bible said. You better hold on steady, try to get ready, cause everyone is gonna get wet. Don’t think it won’t happen just because it hasn’t happened yet.”
It happened to me. It will happen to me again. It will happen to you. God bless.