When I first began blogging on change and transformation, I didn’t know I’d eventually be writing and processing the issue of Faith. Growing up, my connection to God was disjointed and confusing: I was brought up in a home where both Roman Catholicism and Taoism was practiced. By the time I approached adulthood, I thought myself an agnostic, my actions based on complete self-determination.
And so, I am often surprised during my own process of change and transformation that Faith keeps coming up. Perhaps for many who are faithful, in whatever religious classification, that Faith would be a crucial element is obvious. For how else do you walk into the unknown, without an ounce of Faith?
But I’m not quite ready to give in to blind Faith either. Where is that in-between? To approach this question, let me tell you how I met my Faith about five years ago…
Since my early thirties, I’ve struggled with big existential questions like, “what’s the meaning of life?” “What’s my calling and purpose?” and “what does the afterlife look like?” Looking back, I now realize that working in challenging contexts in Africa and Asia since my early twenties meant that I encountered almost too much suffering for someone who had not regularly leaned in on Faith. I was without the means to process the existential questions that came to mind.
In came a dear friend (a holistic medical doctor by profession) who saw my need for emotional healing and recommended me an unconventional treatment: psilocybin mushrooms.* A note for the uninformed: magic mushrooms is a psychedelic drug or hallucinogen which often creates a spiritual experience for the user. Through my trips, I gained insight into answering those existential questions. The one insight I share with you here resonates with me most in terms of Faith in the unknown. And yes, this insight came in the words of God him/herself.
God’s message for me was that this is the only life where we get to be completely autonomous and have independent thought. In other words: we can be who we want to be, but we only get this lifetime to do so.
Simple right? But the flip side, is that we don’t get to know everything. Read together: having independent thought means we cannot truly know the things that do not depend on our autonomous selves, outside our autonomous minds.
After that message was revealed to me, I became disillusioned with the idea that I was not actually going to gain answers to the questions that led me down this spiritual questing. Over time, however, I came to realize that while I did not gain knowledge, I did gain insight.
I emphasize this idea of insight, because having gone down many paths of change and transformation, I now understand that insight is all I ever get. It is the key to my process of becoming my true self. Faith, by definition, is having trust in the unknown, and holds the other piece of the puzzle. Understood together, if the thing we’re transforming into is a mystery, then hold onto that bit of insight, and lean hard into Faith. The rest, is your genius and hard work.
Before I wrap up, let’s visit this idea of self-determination.
“The Na’vi say that every person is born twice. The second time is when you earn your place among the people… forever.” – Jake Sully, Avatar, the movie.
In the movie Avatar, Jake Sully (played by Sam Worthington) uttered those words above as he was coming out from his initiation rite into the Na’vi tribe. There’s 8 minutes of deleted scene of his initiation rite, “The Dreamhunt”, viewable in Avatar’s Extended Collector’s Edition. In this deleted scene Jake eats a worm with psychoactive alkaloid and is subjected to a scorpion venomous sting, in order to gain a vision (as explained by Sigourney Weaver’s character, Dr. Grace Augustine.) During Jake’s psychedelic trip, he sees and connects with Toruk, his spirit animal. Without going into too much detail, the Toruk is important in the story to Jake leading the Na’vi tribe into victory against the “sky people.”
By deleting this vision quest scene from the final finished film, Jake’s employing Toruk is presented instead as an act of self-determination. “Sometimes your whole life boils down to one insane move,” says Jake, as he seeks out Toruk.
Similar to the way Jake Sully’s heroic story was finalized, how often do we consciously or subconsciously edit out Faith, and only leave in “self-determination” as we process our own story of becoming? Our Hero’s Journey to our truth?
While we’re not here to know the unknowable, we ought not edit out the other forces at play either. There is mystery in this world, as well as meaning of life and purpose. There are also ideas buried in our dreams and imagination waiting to be discovered. Those things that rely on an ounce of Faith to take on.
*Disclaimer: all opinions expressed here are my own and are a result of the way in which my somewhat dysfunctional mind interprets a particular situation and or concept. Should you decide to act upon or reuse any information provided by me, you are doing so at your own responsibility.