Let me ask you a purely academic question: Hello?
— Dean Blehert

Saturday, January 31, 2009

What is NOT Faith?

Faith is Everything

Remembering solves not knowing.
Those who cannot remember have beliefs.
This we call faith. Between knowing
and remembering is not knowing -- being
right there with it, but not knowing.
This, too, we call faith. And the
unknowing call knowing faith.
And below belief is mystery, where
one becomes the unknown, knowing only
that nothing can be known, which also
some call faith. Even waiting
to find out what one is waiting for
is called faith. And total unconsciousness
bespeaks vast faith. In the words
of a modern theologian, "I believe
I'll have another drink."

This poem summarizes ways we know. I've seen the word "faith" used to characterize all of them (and a few not mentioned in the poem). Even the absence of faith is a kind of faith or can be seen that way. (Ask any fan of existentialism.) I suppose this is the kind of profundity that equates to triviality. If you draw a circle, you have what's inside it and what's outside it. Any mode of being attributed to an identity has, we assume, outer limits and things beyond those limits, things that aren't it. Or, more simply, whatever I know is not all that can be known. And yet I act. Or don't act. Either action or non-action can be viewed as a manifestation of faith. Here's an example:

I drive my car down the street, looking at what's ahead, checking the rear-view mirror for what's behind, looking to both sides. I'm being careful. This knowing by looking is, in a sense, the opposite of faith. Or it could be called my faith in looking. But I never look up for approaching meteors (and seldom look up to watch out for safes dropped from upper-floor windows). Carelessness? Or playing the odds? Or what's the point, since I wouldn't have time to dodge a meteor? Or faith?

Or perhaps nothing is beyond me. Perhaps I am all that is, and what I know is all there is to be known. And if I say I know this to be true (and to whom would I say it?), that would sound very much like faith.

Getting back to the poem, remembering solves not knowing because knowing is simply knowing. One remembers by looking at something (a mental picture?) in order to "remind oneself" of what one doesn't know. Odd, since we must know what we are able to make a picture of. What complicated games we play.

What are some of the other ways we know things?

Knowing about them at a slight remove, not completely able to pervade what is to be known, not quite able to be it;

looking (a greater remove), by which is meant looking, hearing, tasting, etc.--perceiving in the usual ways;

feeling emotions about and projecting emotions toward and sensing emotional responses;

interacting via effort (as when, to refute doubts of reality, Samuel Johnson kicked a stone hard);

thinking and thinking and figuring away at things, as if somehow our words will eventually become the things we are thinking about;

symbolizing things and perceiving only the symbols (concentrated packages of thinking, really);

eating (a way of knowing or admiring something);

having sex with ("...and Adam knew Eve")--where it is purely a sexual exchange;

bowing in awe before the mystery of things (a despair of knowing);

waiting for an answer or just waiting, not knowing for what or even that one is waiting;

unconsciousness (a considerable effort not to know which leaves a kind of imprinted knowledge, a scar embedded in the hard-shelled resistance to knowing, a way of not-knowing pain, a memory not easily accessed or subject to reasoning).

These constitute a scale (with many intervening steps, no doubt), steps downward from knowing (or perhaps from an unknowing total capability for knowing, at each step downward using more mechanical means to know, a more condensed and limited approach to knowing. These ideas are not my own, but my take (I emphasize, MY take--my realizations on these matters may omit or distort the source of this scale) on the "Know to Mystery Scale" developed by L. Ron Hubbard in the early 1950s. (Note: That link might be difficult for those unfamiliar with the terminology. This scale is best explained in some of his lectures. Or, if you're ambitions, you can find all needed definitions by reading all the axioms that precede the one that contain this scale.)

I was looking one day at the various intricacies of "faith" and how that word seemed to fit with equal propriety any step on that scale. I found the scale useful. I could actually find my position on that scale with respect to specific attempts by me to know. And spotting that position, I could improve it. (Why is moving up it and "improvement"? Knowledge is thus acquired more rapidly, with both greater depth and detail and is more readily and effectively applied.)

Knowing at its theoretically highest level would be creating. One would create that which is to be known and thereby know it. At much lower levels, one knows what one considers is already there to be known by interacting with it. As one moves down these levels, increasingly one ceases to know and becomes what must be known and eventually what is unknowable (or moving in that direction). Have you ever tried to understand, for example, the thoughts or feelings of a rock? Or a person who has become an erratic object? Or someone in a coma? Or a psychiatrist?

My conclusion? Discussions of faith are less useful to me than discussions of knowing and how to know and how to know one knows.

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