In the past few months I’ve discovered that I am benefiting from faith in ways I never dreamed possible. I am not a person of faith in a religious sense. Faith by definition is confidence or trust in a person or entity. Of course it doesn’t take long to find religion when defining faith, it’s the second entry in most online dictionaries. Oscar Wilde is quoted as saying that “skepticism is the beginning of faith.” I am without doubt a skeptic; so with that in mind maybe I’m on my way to faith, or at least moving in that direction.
I read recently that anyone can be a master of anything with 10 years and 10,000 hours of practice. Want to be an artist? Give it time and loads of practice and who knows, maybe you’re the next Rembrandt.
I’m not so sure that’s true (see the skeptic thing?), I think there has to be some spark or natural inclination or you’re just barking up the wrong tree. I bring this up because I am hesitant to call myself a writer. I don’t make a living writing. No-one has ever paid me to write. My writing has little or no commercial value except perhaps to me, to me it’s priceless.
What I find interesting is that I attend college with youngsters barely into their twenties, some still in the latter range of their teens and they declare with gusto that they are a web designer, a photojournalist, a ballerina, a writer, a choreographer, a teacher, a poet. I’m skeptical of their claims at proficiency, at mastery, and wonder how they began on the track to their chosen field as toddlers. Maybe I was an under achiever even then.
For myself at that same age, I was a blue-collar grunt trying to make ends meet. I suppose I could have declared that I was proficient at something but it never occurred to me to brag about my prowess with a paint brush, or my ability to rewire a dishwasher, or rebuild your quadra jet carburetor to boost the horsepower in your Chevy 350 four bolt main short block engine. The faith that I experienced was a confidence in myself and my capacity to survive whatever life threw at me. Maybe I was just too stupid to know any better, faith is funny that way too. Nietzsche said “faith means not wanting to know what is true.” He also said that “god is dead.” Nietzsche is also dead.
Today’s faith comes from a source outside myself, and feels foreign and familiar, warm and slightly pressurized; as if with an anticipation of greatness also comes the expectation of performance. It is a subtle thing this pressure to perform, to meet and exceed the bar. I find that I’ve needed this faith for a very long time, this push, this trust that I will live up to, and be, the best person I can be. It feels like an army recruitment advertisement. Maximize potential. Be all you can be. Trite, I know, but underneath the bilge is the idea that to settle for the status quo is a slow form of death. At some point I settled, having made it out of poverty and onto solid financial ground, I stopped pushing myself. I told myself I was resting. Solidly middle class, bored with my life, the status quo truly was a slow form of death and the crazy bit is that you don’t’ even notice your own decline.
Well I’ve jumped back into poverty mode, and am rediscovering the activities and people who bring joy into my life once again. For me the struggle to write, to create, to build with my own hands is opening the right doors. I’ve come to understand that my family and friends have faith in me, in my abilities, and are there offering support and encouragement to help keep me motivated.
So here I am putting ink blots on paper, or 0’s and 1’s on my computer, thinking that if Wilde is right I’m on the path, if Nietzsche is right I’m deluding myself, either way I’m keeping the faith. Lets see where this goes.