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Faith: not just for religion anymore

So, I got sucked into doing ASC Believes last week. For those who don't know, ASC Believes is my school's spinoff of NPR's This I Believe, and it's generally about faith and meaning and other spiritual words that people like to throw around.

Religion and spirituality aren't part of my life, and I'm not exactly closeted about this fact. It's a running joke in my Baudelaire class that I'm atheist, especially when Baudelaire talks about being close to god or being far from god, and of course, god is seen as an inspiration of sorts. So to make this point, Mme K asked if we wanted to be close to god. I said, "I don't care."

And I don't care. I don't believe in any deities, as I haven't been convinced that any such things exist. I don't live my life as if one does. As far as I'm concerned, none do exist, but of course, there's no proof either way. Sure, it's possible, but as far as I'm concerned it's very unlikely, and if I were to believe in one, I'd be fooling only myself. If you want to put me in a box, apathetic atheist (apatheist!) would probably be it.

So when Minda asked me two weeks ago if I would replace her as a speaker at ASC Believes because of a conflict in her schedule, I stopped. Wasn't that about religion? I thought (and asked her). She knows I don't care about that in my everyday life. But on the other hand, I thought, Hey. This could be neat. Show the people that it isn't all about religion. So I accepted the offer, and later that afternoon we went to the religious life office, a place on campus I had never been before, and she introduced me to the chaplain. Chaplain Kate wrote me into the plan and told me a little about what to do and what to expect.

Awesome, write up my entire life philosophy for the next Friday. I could do that. Except... I didn't believe anything. Or did I? I reread the statement again. Faith and meaning. Faith and meaning. Meaning. Faith. Faith. Meaning. I read old LJ entries. I thought about what drove me to some of the decisions I've made, what people know me as. And then I began to write.

And this is what I came up with.


Well, I'll be honest. I never thought I'd be up here today. Now that I am, let's begin. I believe in BLANK. We can all fill in that blank. God, Allah, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, love, happiness, anything you believe in. If I asked each of you to fill in the blank, there would be many answers, including some that I didn't mention.

Here's mine: I believe in me.

Did anyone say that? No, not me, you. Go on, don't be shy.

No one?

Most of us don't think about self-faith when faith comes to mind. I'm not talking about elevation to a deity, mind. I'm talking about the day-to-day belief, the force within that looks at that mountain of a task ahead, the one that makes you look so small in comparison, and says, "I can do this!" instead of crawling into a hole and begging the work to go away, taking the two-year-old attitude that if you can't see the work, it can't see you. Faith in self gives you the knowledge that you're not doing too badly as a person after all, even without everyone gushing over your accolades and telling you how special you are.

I have a pretty big ego, so having faith in myself isn't too hard most of the time. Then last spring happened.

The semester was just beginning. I knew I had a long hard road ahead with my classes, job, and activities. The assignments began piling up in a one assignment two assignment three assignment four fashion. All this work began to turn into a mountain, but instead of looking at the pile of work and saying, "Sure, I can do that," I began to cower at the ever-growing stack. Instead of beginning to take on what needed to be done, my love of my field began to dwindle, and my life path became less clear by the minute.

You see, I thought I had my entire life planned out at that point. Go to graduate school, get a Ph.D. in math, and teach and research and spread the love of math. This path wasn't going to be easy, but it embraced my passion, and it was what I wanted.

That is, before I cowered at the mention of yet another math assignment. Yes, a homework assignment. It should have been an easy one, and the problem posed was intriguing. But as I stared at the paper and tried different techniques to solve the problem, I kept throwing my proofs aside. None of them could possibly work. I found myself thinking, What if I just wasn't good enough for my dreams?

There is no ending that will provide you with a dose of inspiration here, mostly because the solution to my problem was time. But when time did pass, and I accepted that my future was not set in stone just because at some point a long time ago, I said so, I took matters back in my own hands and created a Future 5.0, which had the features of the past four major editions but with more flexibility. I was the decider, not some past version of myself.

That semester changed me--for worse at the time, I thought as I saw my grades, but now I see it as a change for the better. When I regained faith in myself and my abilities, I was able to see my passions for what they really were: not a tool for a one-way life plan with no out-of-the-way distractions, but a more moldable dream, one that I can tweak to my heart's content.

It is in my passions that I find my reason of being. I write fiction, and since 2002 I've participated in a challenge to write a novel in a month. Besides seven first drafts sitting on my hard drive, I've made many friends who share a passion for the art of writing and gained creative energy in the process. But most of all, I regained faith in myself and my writing. You see, I joined the challenge because of my many started novels that fell apart after two chapters and lost faith in myself. When I found out that a group of people on the Internet were trying to write a book in a month, not years like I was trying to do, I thought this idea was crazy, so naturally I joined. I came up with an idea, and when November began, I wrote. We'll ignore the fact that come day twenty-five, I was at only half the word count goal. Too much had been invested into the story to give up, so I planted myself in my computer chair, told the rest of the family to stop bothering me, and wrote as if my life depended on it for the next five days. Six hours before the month ended, I had a book in my hands.

All the love of writing in the world couldn't have made me finish that book if I didn't believe I could. And all my passions in the world won't get me anywhere if I'm not willing to have a little faith in myself and believe that I can let my passions direct my path. The path may not be beaten, and there will probably be some rest stops and crazy turns along the way. But there is a path, and passion and self-faith will illuminate it.

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
poisonedwriter
Feb. 11th, 2009 10:46 am (UTC)
That's a good talk that I think a lot of Agnes Scott students could stand to hear. I can think of one in particular, and I know she wouldn't have been in the crowd. :C
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )