On the need for beliefs to change
and depending on the words of others when at a loss for words
Hello, everyone. I’m off from my regular day job this week, and plan to spend some time resting as well as making some progress on my book. But truth be told, I’m feeling at a loss for words lately.
As I’ve written elsewhere, words don’t feel sufficient right now. They feel paltry, pallid, and impotent in the face of so much entrenched power that, if it does not have outright disdain for vast swaths of America, is indifferent to its suffering.
Coupled with our personal sorrows and sadnesses, our triumphs and accomplishments happen against a backdrop of everyday apocalypse. Self-care on a sinking ship. Broken hearts amidst a broken society. Other emo feelings, reaching back to ironic self-aware deprecating-as-deflection.
So, in moments like this, I think back to belief—how the abstract helps us make sense of concrete reality—which has more than a few cracks forming. And like a road in need of patching, I need a new thing to believe, not about a god-image but about us, so I can keep going.
I don’t have anything substantive yet. I’m at the point where I lament how much we must lament, grieving that we lurch from grief to grief.
So let me take solace in the words of others.
Thich Nhat Hanh wrote this passage in his book Living Buddha, Living Christ:
“In the beginning, we might have embarked upon the path of Buddhism thanks to a belief in reincarnation, but as we continue to practice and touch reality, our beliefs change. We needn’t be afraid of this. In the course of our study and practice, as we touch reality more and more deeply, our beliefs naturally evolve and become more solid. When our beliefs are based on our own direct experience of reality and not on notions offered by others, no one can remove these beliefs from us. Making a long-term commitment to a concept is much more dangerous. If ten years pass without the growth of our belief, one day we will wake up and discover that we can no longer believe in what we did. The notion of ten years ago is no longer sound or adequate, and we are plunged into the darkness of disbelief.
Our faith must be alive.”
Living Buddha, Living Christ 20th Anniversary Edition (pp. 135-136). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
This concept of belief is in stark contrast to the evangelical conception and practice of faith, which sees beliefs as immutable and eternal. This absolutist belief contributes to a very real lack of progress in things like gun control, or unyielding ahistorical beliefs about human sexuality, the development of the Bible, the history of the United States, etc.