Life is in the living

Peter had asked, “I understand the power and value that Faith itself can bring to a man, but what does it really mean beyond self-induced freedom from uncertainty?”

Dear Peter, It is the posing of this question, inwardly, that creates the dilemma, and the “split” you feel between two paths: one of a resigned (yet putatively false) certainty, and one of an active uncertainty. The former feels less than truly human, as if one had “stopped” and given up everything to an illusory Super Power; while the latter is more true to our condition, but comes with all the attendant anxieties and concerns of that condition. The former is ideal, pretty, maybe even heavenly; the latter is real – and in that reality lies the more potent allure.

I have no interest in a God of the unreal, or in my mind coming to a halt. So how do I resolve faith/acceptance/delighting in the Khidrs of life, with introspection, questioning, searching, and that wonderful thirst which propels men to greatness?

The answer is: I do not resolve it, because I do not face this question; and that is because I do not seek freedom from uncertainty.

What is happiness? To me it is loving the current day as it is, and not looking forward to its end, or another, better day to follow it. I know I am happy when the current hour is absolutely enough, when I count myself lucky for having lived, and when the people in my life fill me with awe and wonder that I know such wonderful souls. This is not always because life is perfect and rosy – often it is bumpy, like today when I missed my flight, and then missed my metro stop and had to walk a mile in the cold dark of a San Francisco night – but because I choose to appreciate the wonder of life itself. I think happiness is found in living – consciously living. It is not an external state later applied to life, but the very condition of living itself. It is only when a person does not see this, precisely because they are seeking something better, that they face a constant disappointment.

Now, actively appreciating life, looking with wonder at the sky and wondering how molecules bond to form solid surfaces; thinking and thinking and thinking about the beauty of things and how they work: this is an active mind, an alive mind. It is not a mind resigned to the world, or one that says, “As long as God knows how butterflies stay in the air, that is enough for me.” I want to know, to understand airfoils and laminar flow, pressure gradiants and thermals, and everything else. I want to keep learning and questioning because this very process is my mind’s life. To resign myself to a world that I don’t understand and then move through it like a blissful zombie is not life; that is just a sweet death. And to wonder over an over again where happiness lies and quest to find it: this is not life either; it is missing the point. Neither path is what I seek; neither bondage in certainty, nor freedom from uncertainty.

What I want is what life is, uncertain, unsure, full of questions. My faith is that this uncertain and unsure life is pretty cool. It’s interesting. I like being alive. I don’t own much, I’m not famous, I’m not wealthy, but I feel like a child most of the time and I get excited very easily. I don’t have questions about what Truth is, because I’m not looking for Truth anymore – for Truth is all around me. Life is truth, living is truth. The fact of using your mind to look for truth is truth. It’s not seeing this which makes the whole thing so damnably complex. We are looking for what’s right under our nose, and then we wonder why it’s so hard to find.

I question always, not because I’m hoping to find a final Answer at the end of all that questioning, to put to rest all my doubts and fears, but because the questioning itself is fun. Finding new answers is exciting; learning new things satisfies my mind. I do it for the experience, not the end or what I might “reap” from the effort.

In our culture we look so much to the end, the product, the conclusion. We think Truth is something we can find, and that once we find it our search will be over and we can put it up on our mantle for all to see. Now, we think, our suffering will end, our uncertainty will disappear, we can finally go to sleep. At the end of a hard day, one deserves a rest, no?

Well, in a way our suffering does end: when pain ceases to hurt so much – when Moses pierces the lesson of Khidr – in a way uncertainty does disappear: when not knowing becomes part of the adventure. But in reality there is no end; the experience of living never ends. It only transforms from one form to another: from child to adult, material to immaterial, from experiences of the body to those of mind and soul. We are always changing, moving, becoming. This itself is the truth of living; not what we imagine ourselves to be heading toward.

So to me, God is like a best friend who’s given me consciousness so that I might enjoy the beauty of His being. However, His being is not beautiful in any textbook way, like a single Mona Lisa hanging on a gallery wall. That’s idealized, refined beauty. Rather, God’s beauty is so infinite and broad that it requires training the eye to see it all. And the more we train and educate our souls, the more of it we will perceive.

However, I do not train my inward eye toward some final end, some cessation of the training; I do it for the sake of the beauties I see. And in always wanting more, I continue on, never seeking rest and never begruding this movement ever-upward. I don’t play the game for the final longsword +5 at the end – but because the graphics are cool and the story is fun. The playing is the truth of the game; the seeing is the truth of beauty; the living is the truth of life. Forget the Truth of schools and scholars; Truth is in your reading of this e-mail right now.

Do you feel it? God’s nearness around your shoulders and in your chest – like your body itself is a creation of His love? Question if you have a desire to question, but because you want to question, not because people have told you to seek answers to endless questions.

To desire certainty is like wishing not to be part of this existence; to loathe uncertainty is to loathe the basic condition of life itself. Why should Faith be something to take us away from what life is? God created life. In my mind, what He desires most is for us to dig in with all we’ve got that we might appreciate and experience the many moments of wonder He’s placed there for the seeing – like an endless procession of beautiful longwords in an infinitely varied game.

If life doesn’t appear that way, then I say: look again. Are you seeing what’s there, or seeing what’s it not, like looking at an existential negative? Look long and deep, and when you find yourself lost in the vision, you will know at that moment what truth and happiness are.