Monday, September 29, 2014

Shackles and Chains

"Seems like all I could see was the struggle
Haunted by ghosts that lived in my past
Bound up in shackles of all my failures
Wondering how long is this gonna last?
Then You look at this prisoner and say to me son
Stop fighting a fight
That's already been won"

            If your Faith doesn't set you free, it is nothing but a cage, a prison cell that confines you and the deity that you worship. Faith evolves, it outgrows its place and takes us in new directions. Faith is a journey, not a destination. It changes just as we change. Religion binds the seeking, twisting and turning great promises that we all know never find fruition. Even if they did, once we finally come to know the answers we are already dead. Our new knowledge does the living no good. You can tell from a person's behaviour that they have Faith. Most often it lies within. When we allow our Faith to lead us, we gain a sense of purpose, a balance towards living. This surety tends to make us more stable, more disciplined. Your Faith should make it so.  
            Having been quite wicked, I realize that if God can work through me, then it is obvious that He can work through anyone. After all, man is punished not for his sin but by that sin. It's important to remember, if you are trying to survive the god men have created, what human beings deem significant is rarely what the true God would hold as significant. The very idea of God is a metaphor. Anything good, anything right, anything that transcends beyond intellectual thought, this is the only form of divinity that we can possibly hope to understand while in the mortal coil. Faith reveals we cannot know so our Faith becomes based on semantics. No one can ever really be sure what the scriptures of his religion mean. We believe in what we think they say, and quite often what we think they should say, but we cannot know for sure their intention.    
            I would rather live my life not having any answers than to pretend that there are any answers. I stand firm in my treason. I don't believe for one second that a God who gave us the ability to reason, higher intelligence and built-in common sense then expects us not to use them. To have Faith is not to know but to wonder. We limit the things we cannot explain when we attempt to explain them. Allow your Faith to be less hypothesis and more practical application. When in doubt, understand that if God made everything out of nothing, then nothing must be everything. Like the ocean, or the river, or the puddle, all Faith comes from the same source, but It comes in one form or another. It resembles the unknown. It evolves from the same place, the same originator. We dilute it, pollute it and often piss in it along the way, but it is still all the same thing. 

"All my life I have been called unworthy
Named by the voice of my shame and regret
But when I hear You whisper
Child lift up your head
I remember, oh God
You're not done with me yet"

            Everyone is different. Each person is unique, with individual wants and needs. Life constantly reshapes us, changes us, although not always for the better. Human beings are in a constant flux, a mesh of what we hope for and what we cherish. Our Faith turns these untested beliefs into steadfast truth, truth that we assure ourselves we can hold onto and call our very own. What we experience and are exposed to throughout our lifetime determines how we think and how we feel and who we are. Our Faith is transformed in the same manner. What we once held in highest regard spiritually tends to fall away, replaced by an "almost deliberate confidence in the character of God" (Chambers). In the end, Faith is not the act of believing without proof but rather it is the act of trusting without reason and hoping without security.   
            If you walk through a prison, or a madhouse, or a retirement home, you quickly learn that Faith doesn't prove a damn thing. People are so sure that they know but Faith that relies on its own authorization is not Faith, it is foolishness. For someone who has true Faith, answers are not necessary. To someone without Faith, answers are not possible. Since God is without definition and beyond our mortal ability to comprehend, Faith then becomes a form of "spiritualized imagination" (Beecher). This is a useful tool when surveying the authority of those who believe they have all the answers. We often forget that "belief in a cruel God makes a cruel man" (Paine). Just as we strive, through religious practice, to be more like God, the application of this trying tends to make God more like us. Faith has to do with things unseen. When we believe that which we think we can see, God becomes our own reflection. Modern spiritual diversity is a testament to the notion that our ideas of God work just like a mirror. 
            Religion and Faith are two very different things. Religion confines man but Faith is supposed to set him free. Religion is supposed to nourish our Faith but it only traps it in a box so we can hold it, see it and in turn attempt to understand it. Faith does not offer the instant gratification that more organized systems of spiritual belief do. Faith is obscure, ambiguous and carries with it moments of doubt both great and small. We need those moments just like we need our Faith. The two work in juxtaposition. Having spiritual "doubt is not the opposite of faith; it is one element of faith" (Tillich). It can even be said that knowledge breeds Faith, but I would argue that our Faith has influenced our knowledge. Sometimes we even make things up as we go along. Faith based on knowledge is nothing but a bigger mirror and a kinder lie.  

"I don't have to be the old man inside of me
Cause his day is long dead and gone
Because I've got a new name
A new life
I'm not the same
And a hope that will carry me home"

            Recognizing you cannot know God does not necessarily take away your Faith. Despite moments of doubt and protestation, my Faith has only brought me closer for exactly those reasons. You don't have to believe what they tell you that you should believe. Nothing you are taught can define you nor can those lessons define God. You do not need churches or scriptures to find what you have been looking for. There is little need for any form of guesswork. Despite all earthly institutions, you will not find the answers in mortal constructs. We may pour out our misery but you cannot find anything but a reflection in your humanity. The place where He lies waiting lies within. Faith then becomes "that deep emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe" (Einstein). You are part of that fabric. God is incarnated as Mercy and Heaven can be "under our feet as well as over our heads" (Thoreau). Having Faith in yourself is always the safest and surest course. I stand firm that it will carry all of us home.
            We don't see things as they really are, we see things as we want them to be. It is not like we have much choice in the matter. Faith then is to believe when everything you have come to know tells you there is nothing there to believe in. Just because we can't see it, or touch it, or understand it, doesn't mean  there is nothing there. Like the soul, or happiness, or loving someone, you may not be able prove it exists but that does not negate its existence. Having Faith is like taking a first step without seeing where you are going. All our lives we go on searching for something, but that something can never be discovered and seeking rarely leads anywhere. We walk blindly, always reaching for the kingdom no one seems able to find .The very thing we have all been looking for has been here all along.  Sometimes it's not the truth that brings us solace but our idea of the truth that brings us comfort. We want to know how it all began and how it all will end, but Faith only gives us the strength to get through, it does not possess the answers.
            When all is lost and the world has left you stripped and barren, Faith is often the only thing that will carry a person through. Faith gives hope in the greatest despair and strength to keep going in spite of it all. Whether it is all in our mind, or an act of surrender, Faith shows us the things we cannot change. Sometimes the things we cannot change, change us instead. Unfortunately, Faith can cement a person in their beliefs, artificially giving them permission to condemn those who view God differently. You must respect other people's Faith. It matters little if a person believes in spaceships and human cloning or in old men and the sea, people who do not respect another person's spiritual vision tend to manipulate their own to create fear and attempt control. You cannot convince anyone of something they are unwilling to believe.

"I am redeemed
You set me free
So I'll shake off theses heavy chains
Wipe away every stain
Now I'm not who I used to be
I am redeemed"
(Redeemed, Big Daddy Weave 2012)
            All the words in the world don't really mean a thing. All the pages, all the stories, they carry little weight. Faith isn't about what you believe, it is about how those beliefs transform you. Th Indwelling of the Holy Spirit and achieving Nirvana both manifest the same qualities in a person. You experience another person's Faith through those qualities, it is in the way that they behave, in their actions. There is a discipline to Faith and "Discipline is an index to doctrine" (Tertullian). People of true Faith don't practice what they preach, they preach what they practice. Whether you pray in Temple, commune in Church, or discover the Source at a hillside retreat, we are all children of the one True God. People must have the right to live in freedom, to think as they please and to be who they really are. No book should ever define anyone. No path should ever be barred from travel. Every road should lead us home.
            I have come to a place where I don't want to know the truth. It doesn't matter anymore. Faith is "not wanting to know what is true" (Nietzsche). Ultimately, this form of blind Faith is really the only kind of Faith. Not one soul on this planet knows a thing for sure. There is no proof, that's why it's called belief. True Faith is intelligent faith. It is the application of a divine influence without a single fact to back it up. It is surrender to the unknown and a recognition that you were always free. Religious people spend a lot of their spiritual lives trying to convince people outside their Faith structure that they have all the answers. They rarely have any. What works for them may not work for me. Faith allows us to evolve our beliefs, to reveal our reflection as an indicator of our Faith until our Faith becomes our very reflection.