Intransitive Faith: Rule Three explained
Welcome to yet another diatribe on Faith. I suppose this isn't *quite* the same as other ones, but fuck it, in the end everything written about faith is characterizable as WHYYYYYY?, right?
::pokes Augustine with a stick & runs away::
You probably know that I have five Rules. My Rule Number Three is "One Faith". More accurately it's "Intransitive Faith", but I shortened it for flow and whatnot. The rule is this: I have to remember that there is, at the base of things, always one faith that must be maintained — one thing that cannot be doubted; or more accurately one place doubt cannot go. (Rule Four is "Doubt Everything Else", shortened when no-one else needs to read it to "Jnana Yoga".)
The practical reason for Rule Three is rather Asimovian in that it's required by Rule One, which is "Keep Trying". But the precise wording of Three and the existence of Four specify that the "thing" that must be had faith in cannot be named, or at least not named concretely or permanently. It's intransitive specifically because whatever the thing happens to be — or whether there is one or not — does not change the rule. However much I ever figure out, there will always be something I have to have faith in, because that thing is the necessity of faith itself. Intransitive Faith is faith qua faith; so while I may poke at defining what the nature and boundary of faith is all the time, I can never go "Fuck it; this is all just without meaning." Something, some organizing principle or energy or what have you, is there at the bottom of things, whether I know what to call it or not; and my not knowing what to call it is no excuse for speciously denying it in spite of a worldful of otherwise-unexplained evidence…especially when my urge to deny it is entirely a reaction against pain.
Currently, I'm calling that thing-at-the-bottom Physics. A classier and more universal name is Karma Yoga, but depending on context that can mean a lot of things, so I avoid it. What I'm referring to is the hypothesis that "all of this is the way it is for some reason, according to some system". I think Physics is a good name for it because the sciences of fundamental things are admitting, by virtue of searching for foundational laws, that they have faith that those laws must, in some form, exist. And it's a good thing they do, or they wouldn't have spent all that time looking further and further down, and finding cooler and more useful stuff with every boundary they pass.
But faith is a virus: You can't have faith in foundational laws of some kind, on some level, somewhere, and then maintain that who you are and what happens to you is random. You don't have to be a determinist — which is a pure extrapolation that things work exactly the same at a micro/particle-level as they must at a macro/human-and-mental level, which is just silly to claim wholesale — but you can't say there's no connection, either. There is no comfy place where physics / fundamental laws of some kind exist but everything in our heads and hearts is totally there just because of the choices of ourselves and other people, or else for no reason at all.
For me, now and for recent years' worth of Taoism, this means the faith that the Creative — the sum total of yang forces, which are of course one force, since energy can't be really separated from itself — has, is, and will exert itself in ways that make sense: to fill emptiness, to empty fullness, and all the other shpancy ways that can be stated by folks more eloquent than I.
This is pretty easy to believe on a base physical level, but when your head's acting up and emotional pain keeps digging you down to the BUT WHYYYYY? level, it can be really hard to trust that the One Faith works *up here*, too. I read some form of Chinese scripture pretty much daily, so I'm reminded of the wisdom of trusting in the sensicality of reality this way on a pretty regular basis, and thank goodness too — I wouldn't have made it one of my rules if it didn't make me a happier and better person!
Yet even though I give myself not only freedom, but a mandate, to doubt every single other thing in the Universe, it remains quite difficult to not doubt the Bottom Thing. I look at my life, and if sat down and questioned, I would tell you quite clearly that the way things are is quite likely to be part of a Path, and that it's *very* likely that the missing bits I feel will be filled in time if I just keep focusing on what's important and the work I know I should be doing. But then if fed a drink or two, or asked in one of the many weak moments I have, I will flail and say BUT AUGH THIS HURTS AND WHAT IF THE CREATIVE DOESN'T *KNOW* ABOUT THIS THING I NEED? WHAT IF IT WILL NEVER COME UNLESS I RUN OUT AND BEAT PEOPLE UNTIL SOMEONE GIVES IT TO MEEEEEE? AND IF THAT'S TRUE THEN WHY AM I NOT BEATING PEOPLE NOW NOW NOW??!
The sane, rational answer is that it will come when it should — that the Universe is quite smart enough to put a square peg into a square hole, duh, and when I've used the painful lessons of late for their intended purpose (routing the edges of the hole that is me into their best shape), the appropriate thing will come. And duh, because it's the appropriate thing/s at the appropriate time, it'll be wonderful — way way WAY more wonderful than anything I might run out and scrape up by force.
The emotional answer is OMG FUCK YOU STOP THE PAIN STOP IT NOW. If you've ever been addicted to something and quit, you'll know what I mean when I say that that's a soundtrack that runs ALL. THE. TIME., and that it's really super tempting to drink, sleep, or do other consciousness-blunting things to drown it out.
Faith is not an easy gig. Every time that screaming soundtrack flicks on again, I have to go all the way back through to the beginning, dig all the way down to why Rule Three is so important, and force myself to re-accept it all over again. There is, for me at least, no "set it and forget it" switch; no part of my reasoning that I can tell myself is inviolate. I had that kind of faith when I was a kid, but I wasn't fifteen before I realized that reason which respects fences isn't really reason at all: You're either open to thinking about things, or you're not, and I think we all know which one I've decided I want to be.
So yeah. Today's been enough of a struggle to accept that things happen with full consideration of other things, and that the path to what I want in life is not always going to be straight, that it merited a blog-post about the nature and role of faith in my world lately. I apologize if that wasn't of any use to you, but maybe it helps to know that writing it kept me off the edge one more time. ;)