all of the selves we Have ever been
“Faith is not the childish belief in magic.
That is ignorance or willful blindness. It is instead the realization that the tragic irrationalities of life must be counterbalanced by an equally irrational commitment to the goodness of Being.” --Dr. Jordan B. Peterson in 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos
This morning, I came across this quote scribbled in a notebook I keep at my bedside for times of prayer and reflection. “Faith over fear” is my daily mantra during the current crisis, and it has been for much of my life. Our showdown with the coronavirus is especially frightening, but so much of life is scary. We all have past experiences with that fact. More typically, we face it down in smaller doses. Never before has the simple, routine act of leaving our homes been a matter of life and death.
At this time, I relish Dr. Peterson’s definition of faith—an acceptance of the tragic irrationalities of life, and the power we all hold to counterbalance the tragic with an equally irrational commitment to goodness. His definition transforms faith from a belief or a feeling into an action word, a description of what it means to live by faith regardless of your religious affiliation.
I see and hear about this irrational commitment to goodness by people all over the world—people singing from their balconies to engage with and entertain their equally isolated neighbors, donations of food, voluntary re-purposing of manufacturing plants, health care workers who keep coming to work even though they are terrified about what will happen to their own children and families. Irrational commitments to goodness surround us.
As the world and our own country mobilize to wipe out the coronavirus, I ask myself, if we make an ongoing irrational commitment to goodness, what else can be wiped out? There are many items on my wish list. Dr. Peterson’s quote captures two of them--ignorance and willful blindness.
The pandemic has awakened us to a new understanding that what was once unimaginable is not only possible but real. How foolish can we be about the increasing destruction of the planet? Are we sure there is no such thing as global warming? Can we get back to burning coal? Is it wise to walk away from our global neighbors on these big issues that affect us all? Will we believe them if they tell us something we don’t want to hear?
Also on my wipe-it-out wish list is greed. Greed underlies so much of what is problematic. Perhaps it is time to stop equating capitalism with greed. That offends my American-citizen-self. Our forefathers led a revolution energized by the saying, “Taxation without representation is tyranny.” Taxation without representation is greed, the worst form of tyranny. In more recent history, knowingly sending cars off the line with faulty brakes is not capitalism, it is a crime. Bailing out banks so they can take peoples’ homes and give CEOs big bonuses is not capitalism; it is a misuse of public funds. People intuitively understand the difference and want capitalism with a conscience.
Ignorance, willful blindness, silent acceptance, and growing resentment are evidence that, too often, we accept the tragic irrationalities of life without question. We fail to speak up or take individual action. I realize that I have been guilty of leaving many of the big issues to others.
The reality of the current pandemic is forcing us to hit the re-set button in every area of our individual and collective lives. It is a time for faith over fear, to counterbalance tragedy with irrational goodness, and to acknowledge our moments of ignorance and willful blindness so that we might stand up and speak out while there is time.