Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner


Originally posted on December 3, 2010

Faith-ing is a word I use to express the idea that faith is something you do, not something you can “have.” It’s an activity of turning towards your highest values and a somewhat optimistic view of the possibilities in the future. Faith may not require that you think of the future as all rosy; rather, it might simply involve your realization that a smile given to others who are trying, bless their hearts, even if their attempts are less than optimal by your standards. You “do” faith or you don’t, you do it more or less. If you “had” faith yesterday but you “lost” faith today, does that suggest an all-or-nothing situation? Rather, it’s more useful to recognize that what is involved is a turning towards hope, optimism, positive thinking.

One may find that it’s helpful to draw on various poetic or mythic symbols or images or stories, but these should be recognized as aids, not as the substance of the activity. It’s entirely possible to faith (as a verb) without recourse to any of these. In the Star Wars movies of the 1970s through 1990s, characters might be thought of as turning away from the “dark side” into the “light”—and this was a kind of faith-ing.

Faith-ing doesn’t require an avoidance of recognition of problems, the prevalence of wickedness, foolishness, and, far more prevalent, mere passivity, recognition, slave mentality, habit-dominated thinking, inertia, dominance by illusion, susceptibility to the rhetoric of demagogues, immaturity, lack of courageous imagination, lack of a skill set for critical thinking, and, especially, the illusion that what is known is sufficient. There’s a lot of that going on.

But obsessing on the prevalence of folly in all its forms doesn’t in itself lead to getting free of folly, or even recognizing the ways folly works in oneself!  (I’m not suggesting that you allow denial to interfere with reasonable plans you could make involving things you can anticipate. I do support political and social action, but not just filling your time with complaining, which achieves little or nothing in the way of meaningful change.)

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries the problems of the world were dealt with through positive thinking—but it was more based on avoidance of negativity, and, worse, avoidance of the recognition that negativity was being avoided. This double-avoidance may also be recognized as what Freud meant in the word “repression.” In contrast, simple and temporary avoidance may be a very healthy and necessary thing to do sometimes: One cannot hope to cope with every problem by keeping it front and center. Suppression is the activity of putting something in the closet, but not pretending that it isn’t there. The best thing is to suppress when you need to but not repress.  Or, saying it another way, take care of business and then have fun.

Yet this isn’t all: It’s also necessary to practice faith-ing, or positive thinking. This balances the work. Otherwise it’s too negative, leads to burn-out or sourness—possibly disguised as seriousness. It can also lead to taking oneself seriously and fanaticism, over-focus on certain ideas, doctrines, policies that seem to be the “only” way to cope with the problems.

Mind is sticky and tends to get caught up in a general idea and then increasingly attached to the products of that idea, the imagined source of the problem, the imagined solution, the imagined idea that one is heroic and special and being able to see the problem so clearly, or empowered to fix it. Mind tends to get associated ideas stuck to the original impulse, and further, mind tends to fix an impulse to the sense of self. But it’s all misleadingly illusory. Yet these illusions tend to drift into the process of useless and needless worry, which is non-productive and, in the wider sense of enjoyment of life and helping those around you to enjoy you and life with you, counter-productive.

So this mini-essay is aimed at promoting a higher level of mental engagement and resiliency, a balance between reality-oriented thinking and daring to imagine or even just act as if life could be getting better, you could be getting better, and that there is joy to be had and shared.

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