I’ve written here a fair bit on how faith in myself is lacking and when I look at the state of the world, I wonder how I can have faith in others as well. Things are pretty bad, not only in terms of suffering experienced in the world but people and organisations using that suffering and fear to benefit themselves. It’s true sometimes I look around and have no faith in the world changing for the better, it seems impossible. I mean there’s so many ways to change things simply and quickly but it doesn’t happen. I often imagine if we all decided to, we could literally wake up tomorrow and practically turn the lives completely around of everyone on the planet to benefit all. Yet then I just can’t see we really want to, in fact I don’t often want to change myself, so I couldn’t expect anyone else to.
Recently I heard a talk at work by an economist who said we need to look at people as capital as a way to create innovative businesses. I wouldn’t say it’s a new concept for instance the aristocracy once referred to “their people” as cattle (by adding the “h” and calling us “chattle”). It implies not just ownership but also viewing people as mindless herd animals to profiteer from. That’s not so different as viewing people as capital, which this guy was advocating.He also said that we ought to ask not how we can transform our products and services to better suit customer behaviour but how do we transform our customers’ behaviours to better suit our products and services?
My gut reaction was that’s evil but then I thought about it some more – it certainly has that potential but it doesn’t need to go that direction. The negative direction would be like a pharmaceutical company trying to make more people sick to sell more pills or an arms manufacturer stirring up war to sell more weapons to both sides.The sad thing is this does occur and it does so by transforming people in a way that cripples them and makes them dependant. Why then couldn’t we create things that help enable people and make them independant instead? If we could go one direction (not the band) we could go the other.
I watched a new documentary about Bob Marley that reminds me of this potential.He had a really tough upbringing, so a lot of his music was about his pain and heartache but also about getting past struggles and moving towards real love and freedom. You can tell he really believes his message listening to his songs, especially too seeing him on stage, he really had a lot of stage presence, its like his whole being was in the moment.
He could of easily gone the other direction and just hated the world but he didn’t, he seemed to have instead develop afaith in other human beings having this capacity to change and that is what I think moves us – someone having faith in us when we ourselves don’t. Well that’s what I’ve experienced with Maja, my wife who often has a better view of me than I do myself, and knowing she has that belief in me, it helps me believe it and act on it too.
An example with Bob Marley was with this concert held in Jamaica that brought together a nation polarised by political fronts. These two sides were basically shooting at each other just days before and not only did Marley have them come together and enjoy the music in the thousands, he got the two leaders to hold hands high on stage in a gesture of unity with everyone seeing it. That’s an amazing feat. If you instead imagine George Bush, Obama, Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden standing for peace under a song about emancipation and love, you’d get the picture of what he did. It’s so far from what I can imagine to be even possible that it sounds ridiculous but that’s what Marley achieved with his music.
Its not as though Bob Marley had no shortcomings, like he didn’t seem to be the best of dads, he was described as absent and harsh from his kids but he had this immense passion for music and he had this insatiable belief in his message and how music could transform the world. That itself has a huge impact.
When our lives are filled with people that don’t have much faith in us, then we hear a strong and clear voice that has an authentic feeling of faith in all mankind, we become like sponges for this.The key though is “authentic”, as anyone can make up a song with words of love, faith and freedom thrown in but on the whole I believe we intuitively know the difference between real and fake.
After watching the doco, its convincing for me that Marley really had this kind of faith. That’s also what attracted me to AJ and what he speaks about, despite the claim of being Jesus and my alarm bells ringing loudly when first hearing that, it was his authentic feeling of faith in others as well as God that came through for me in what he says.
But what is faith anyway, and how do I have faith in myself, others and God?
If I start with God, sometimes I doubt I’ve experienced God to have enough faith that God is near or even exists. There’s been a number of times I’ve been sure I’ve felt God, but the fact I still doubt it shows I couldn’t have been as sure as I first imagined. At the same time, it might be wishful thinking or a hope I’m clinging to that someone’s listening but whatever it is, I tend to talk to God more and more now.
I believe this contradiction comes down to the fact that emotionally at least I’ve resolved that God exists but its my self doubt that tends to overtake things. So even while I doubt God is good and I doubt God exists at all, I still talk to God as if I’m not convinced by my own doubt. Its like someone presents a really good case that me, you or anything at all can’t exist, but no matter how many hypotheticals or mental gymnastics goes on, after all that’s done, we still feel otherwise.
So over time my faith in God, however dwindling it is now, is growing, because while I’m still critical, I’m noticing things, basically a lot of little things adding up and so challenging my doubt.
For example, I don’t know if its prayer by definition but I ask God something and at first I get this subtle feeling for what the answer is. To be accurate its rare I ask for things, as I tend to want to figure things out on my own, but when I do sincerely, I feel a definite and direct “no” or “yes”. The yes is kind of like a stronger sense of presence and the no is like that presence is further away. I know that’s vague but its the best I can describe for now. Anyway, I usually dismiss it as me just deceiving myself because like I said, I’m often doubtful as a rule.
What circumvents this doubt is how I get an answer later anyway and these answers happen usually within a few days. The answer could be anything such as a person complementing me, or another bumps into me angrily. These events seem to follow a pattern and soon enough it makes a lot more sense, especially when the answer is the same as the feelings I got when asking God in the first place.
So I guess faith in God for me has something to do with the fact that what I’ve described becomes less and less feasible that this is just random coincidences the more this occurs over time. If the pattern changes the other direction, my faith naturally would be diminishing more and more the other way but so far it hasn’t gone that direction.
What happens then for me at least is I start having more faith in myself. Its goes like this – the more I feel God is real and that God cares and loves me personally, the more I have faith that I am able to take steps passed my own personal fears that stop me doing what I’d really like to be doing. Its got something to do with the fact that I feel that I am worthwhile and of real benefit and purpose to God and this gives me strength and courage to pursue these things that I otherwise wouldn’t on my own back.
In this case what follows is having this demonstrated faith in God through my own personal experience translates to faith in myself and so makes me feel more comfortable being just who I am. From there its easy to have faith in others too. It’s easy because as I see that potential for positive change can and does happen with me. So while I’ve little faith initially in myself and I tend to have more faith in others already, it goes without saying that this potential is very much achievable with everyone else. So for me at least anyway, if I demonstrate to myself I can do things, I have no doubt at all others can too.
With all that being said, it gets clearer and clearer to me now that what Jesus of the first century (and that further emphasized by AJ) mean’t when he said that if start with pursuing a relationship with God, all else follows.
I really believe that for most people, experimenting with the idea that there is a God and that God cares about us and loves us and doing this in their own unique way – its straight forward to experience what I’m talking about. From that point, God as we know God to be, moves out of this realm of an abstract and unreachable concept to being something tangible – an actual real being we can get to know personally.
When I start seeing things this way, I start to understand that the change that I’d love to see in the world only ever happens from inside then goes out. It’s happens from our heart and then all else follows. So, whatever perfect system – political, religious, educational etc. etc. we devise, will ultimately fail while we personally struggle with our own inner demons. It’s a demonstrated fact through history. So I can see now that in order for me to do anything of lasting value, I need to start first from myself and it’s an amazing gift really to begin to recognize as I do now that I don’t have to do this on my own. Not only is God there available for me to help but all of God’s creations are devised to help me too. So, considering that we have no reason to believe that time will cease and time is essentially infinite, then it’s true that it’s just a matter of time. In time without a doubt every single human being will experience fulfillment and joy. In fact, from that angle, the perfect system I’ve always sought to find is already here and knowing that all my fears, all fears generally have no more standing.