“And God sat beside the fallen Cowboy, and He drank from the dry canteen.” The fun thing about blind faith is that it provides so much amusement. And since we are all blind, this life is going to be nothing but fun, right? After so many years of digging for a “truth” I knew I counldn’t find, I find that what I’ve sought is nothing more than the search itself. In other words, I’m finding that there’s little I can say about reality that amounts to more than self-gratifying noise. That must be what the end of “faith” feels like. I wonder if that depresses me?
My wife’s grandfather is finally about to kick off into the Great Mystery, and I’m soooo glad she turns to me for silent comfort rather than explanation. She knows there are angels and spirits and a God — without the “benefit” of a theological upbringing — because she has to. That’s a question with a period.
I mention it because (with a little imagination) it seems such a classic example of where we are as a people, always trying to find ways to explain life and death to the living. She has asked me to explain to her what I know of the quantum and the macro, and how this leads to some intellectual “salvation” or comfort (same thing, in my book). All that stuff is comprehensible, even for the mathematically-challenged. But there’s something sadly lacking.
We truly are islands, some desperate for a signal to come home to reason. The void isn’t there for me, but for others it is bottomless without imagining a safe harbor. What is your safe harbor?
You make very good points here about the need for a “safe harbor,” no matter what your philosophical leanings. I agree with you that those who look for something comforting in the facts of physics or try and find angels in equations are probably going to fall short of being comforted. Too many people on this kind of quest seem to just be looking for something they don’t understand — a “mystery,” if you will — to hang their hat on, and that leads to all sorts of new-age silliness.
As for myself, I have three safe harbors.
The first is wonder in the world around me. I think that the search for knowledge, the quest to know the world around us, is one of the most wonderful things in all of existence. I love to read about new discoveries in the sciences, whether they are in physics, history, biology, or any other area of investigation. We are the only creatures on earth that can crack the puzzles that surround us, and I am thrilled to be part of a species with such power.
The second is the wonder of human thought and creativity. I adore investigating how the human mind works, trying to put together the thoughts of people from long ago (this is part of why I love to read about Biblical times), and seeing a new, successful, original human creation. As a child I adored Ben Franklin and Walt Disney as icons of the drive to create. As an adult, I sometimes cry at movies, not because of their content, but because I get so excited with someone’s vision is well executed (as an aside, this means that I’ve teared up at some pretty weird movies, like Fight Club, and that I get really annoyed by films that have no vision beyond marketing).
The third is my desire to have an impact on the world around me. I love making people laugh because I think it helps them get through the day. I love sharing philosophy with people, because I think that a self-examined life is a better life. I want the world to be a tiny, tiny bit better place when I leave it than it was when I came into it. Working toward that is probably the biggest safe harbor I have.