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The Clearing of Belief

Jesus said to him, "Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed"

John 20:29

Absence offers the space and brings about the possibility of belief. For if I already see with my own eyes, touch with my own hand, and feel with my own flesh, I would not have the chance to doubt its reality or existence. But in order for faith to be made possible, I would have to find myself in a situation which does not offer me any palpable certainty or visible proof of the reality that I profess to believe in. To see does not mean to believe for seeing already disqualifies the possibility of belief in that I do not need to have faith anymore for it is already there, proven to be true without a shadow of a doubt. But it is that chasm between the inability of seeing it and its reality which allows me to believe and possibly have faith. Without this distance which I cannot bridge by force or might, I would not be able to wager my faith. Without this absence, I cannot leap.

Interesting thing, this faith. It falls beyond the bounds of perception thus it is already without reason or cause or logic. Yet what is it which enables me to believe in a god which I do not see or have faith in the other who remains invisible? Certainly, I cannot just depend on the force of habit for too easily this faith can be shaken with this or that difficulty or tragedy. There are times when this faith is revealed to be a blind faith which does not understand itself; but it is during these times when a new, stronger faith arises, one that may be founded not out of convenience or custom but by conviction. Yet the question remains, how can I have a conviction of what always surpasses me, of what I do not experience strictly like any visible thing or object? How can I continue to believe, and find myself betting everything on that which I can never be certain of?

The question is absurd for both the realist and idealist. The realist insists that we can only remain within the bounds of certainty. The idealist in the meantime advises that the essential is what ultimately escapes the material. Both point to extreme justifications through reasons: one points to the realm of the visible while the other envisages the invisible. Yet perhaps the man who has faith does not choose between the two extremes but instead takes both into account and then surpasses them with a wager. And his wager is clear: he remains in the real knowing that the ideal froms and makes sense of what he experiences. He judges that this reality is without substance if left to its self and that the ideal is also nothing when it is not made real. What he does is to make a decision in spite of reality and ideality. he joins the two together as in an unexpected marriage.

Because faith, even if it has no visible object, informs and changes the reality of the real; the invisible makes itself present. But not without help from the believer. It is the believer who makes what he believes in visible by carrying out its work in the realm of the world, by being its hands and feet, by being its embodiment. Perhaps faith does not reveal something that it wishes to see; on the contrary: it protects the invisible by safekeeping it in its hidden glory. Yet the reversal is seen in how faith in an other (god or the other) transforms not the one which is believed but the one who believes. Because of this faith in an other, it is not the other which has something added onto it--as if its glory can be dimished or increased. It is the believer who experiences the absurd gift which having faith bestows on him. Absurd because, by believing in something which he does not see, he is able to experience himself seen, exposed, and carried outside of himself.

Hence the paradox of faith: the unreality which I do not experience is made more real than the reality I experience. Thus the vanity of what exists is overcome by the glory of what doesn't. And to the believer, nothing makes more sense.

I wish I could learn how to believe again. I've stayed too long in contempt.


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