How certainty gives you relief from the burden of belief
And that will destroy you.
Good morning. Happy Saturday. Toss that bowl of cereal out the window because we’re talking about faith (again).
It’s embarrassing to sleep next to a new person. I talk in my sleep. A lot. I tend to babble philosophical-sounding nonsense… loudly.
Last night, luckily, she wasn’t there. But, I woke myself up saying this poem (which I guess my subconscious made up):
“Certainty is cowardly relief
from the burden of belief
is the fuel of life.”
She was doing a poetry reading at some jazzy joint and intoning those phrases to me, over and over…
In my experience, dreams (like hips) don’t lie. They often don’t know the most straightforward way to say what they mean, but they don’t lie. When I have a dream, it tells me something about myself that I need to know.
I woke up this morning thinking, “Have I been clinging to certainty?”
Immediately, I thought of the post I wrote last week, “How to Generate an Unshakeable Faith in Your Creative Ability.” In it, I described a “faith machine” in this sci-fi book I was reading. It gives people the synthetic faith to believe we could win against technologically superior aliens. I’m not proud of this—but I hadn’t finished the book yet (it’s over 500 pages). I assumed the ending: A Star Wars one-in-a-million victory.
This week, I finished the book. The ending was…not what I expected.
There was still the one-in-a-million victory, but not because of unshakeable faith. In fact, the faith being shakeable was a big reason for victory.
We gotta be able to change.
Faith Should Not Be Unshakeable
Faith is a funny word. To some, it means “stupid belief in made-up things.” To others, it means “courage to believe in what others don’t understand.”
To me, faith is just a necessary neurological structure. Let me explain.
Humans are limited. The list of examples is endless, but, for one, you see the world through a hole smaller than the tip of your pen. Your brain mostly “makes up” what it expects you to see from memory. So, we never have full knowledge (not even close) about any decision we make. Yet, we make thousands of decisions a day. How do we do that? Faith.
That’s why it’s often referred to in the context of a leap. Faith is not something you need when you’re chillin’. It’s something you need when it’s time to make a decision. Otherwise, you would be in “paralysis of analysis” for eternity.
Faith is an act of doing something in the overwhelming face of infinite data.
It is not closing your ears to discovering something that could change what you believe.
Jerry-rig Some Beliefs and Get Moving
Life, in all its wild weirdness, is a bit like building an airplane in mid-air.
There’s not a lot of time for questions. We just need to make something happen fast.
Carl Jung once said, “The fool is the precursor to the savior.” I often think about that line when I feel like a big idiot. Thanks, Carl.
What I think he meant was that to get good at anything, you have to start badly at it. There is no way to theorize yourself to a place where you won’t embarrass yourself when you start. A thousand books about riding a bike won’t stop you from looking like a dork when you first hit the saddle.
So, the “fool” is the person who is OK with being bad at things initially. If you make a habit of that, you might end up some kind of “savior.” Who knows?
The important thing, for me at least, is to remember that I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, and that’s alright. I’ll keep writing to you—often wrong and stupidly—and, hopefully, we’ll all learn a little along the way.
Certainty feels nice, but it blinds you to who you could be.
Thanks for reading,
Share this with someone who has an unfinished book on their hard drive.
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What I’m reading this week:
Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel
To be honest, I don’t care for it. The author's philosophy soaks the page with hostility toward humanity and resentment of being. However, if she doesn’t actually feel that way and she’s just writing believable characters, then color me impressed.
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Reported by many to be the greatest book of all time. I’ll let you know as I get into it.
Honeycopy by Cole Shafer
I wrote an article about it this week. It’s old-school cool in a time of mostly vulnerability. Refreshing.
Quotes I’m pondering:
“My point is, there’s always something. I think, as a species, we have a desire to believe that we’re living at the climax of the story. It’s a kind of narcissism. We want to believe that we’re uniquely important, that we’re living at the end of history, that now, after all these millennia of false alarms, now is finally the worst that it’s ever been, that finally we have reached the end of the world.” ― Emily St. John Mandel, Sea of Tranquility
“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago.” — Friedrich Nietzsche
“The classic images Shakespeare, Balzac, and Tolstoy created were born from their mental wombs. But today's practitioners of literature have lost that creativity. Their minds give birth only to shattered fragments and freaks, whose brief lives are nothing but cryptic spasms devoid of reason. Then they sweep up these fragments into a bag they peddle under the label 'postmodern' or 'deconstructionist' or 'symbolism' or 'irrational.”― Liu Cixin, The Dark Forest