Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The requirement of Faith

A friend of mine passed this poem on to me today.

I said to the man who stood
at the gate of the year:
Give me a light
that I may tread safely
into the unknown.

And he replied: Go out
into the darkness and
put thine hand into
the Hand of God.

That shall be to thee
better than light and
safer than a known way.

--M. Louise Hopkins

The poem hits a nerve for me.

As I dig deeper into the soul and the self, longer in life, unearthing successive layers of experience and being, I begin to see that almost everything is unknown.

There is no map of the world.

There is no up or down, no north, no south, no east or west, except as things stand in relationship to one another. The constellation of Orion, which looks so beautiful, so arranged--so perfect--from where I stand on starry nights in Sparkill, is a temporary arrangement. Viewed from elsewhere in the universe, it looks nothing like this at all.

What we believe in are fixed points, but we have none. Everything is meaningful only within the context of relationship.

Knowing this, I confront a moment where I have to find myself within this vast ocean of life, of space, of time, and just swim, trusting in my ability to do that--regardless of whether or not there is a shore to be reached.

I am reminded of a moment in many years ago when I was walking down a street in Taiwan, and it seemed to that with every step I took, everything was uncertain. The Earth could shake -- buildings could collapse -- everything that holds life and understanding and truth together seemed fragile and insignificant. The line that divides sanity from insanity seemed thin enough that day that nothing a man could think or do was to be considered reliable. The clearly ordered events and circumstances around me were actually an ocean of uncertainty. Nonetheless, one foot had to continue to find its way in front of the other.

This is where the requirement of faith comes in -- I have to believe in the walking, the forward motion--in the swimming itself.

No matter how hard we swim, and how many horizons we swim towards, we repeatedly come back to discover ourselves, not where we thought we were going, but right here, in the thick or thin water of this present experience. The horizon, which perhaps seems to be the point and place of our salvation, is always in the distance--filled with a promise, but always unknown, and always out of reach.

In the midst of this uncertainty, the best hope I have, I find, is the hand that holds mine.

I may not always sense it-- but it's there.

May your roots find water, and your leaves know sun.

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