April 18, 2017
From nothing to nothing; is it all a dream, swirling fantasies lacking substance? Are we just another species to come and go, links in a twisted chain of happenstance and chance? Does life matter or is it a bridge from nothing to nowhere? Are efforts to find a deeper meaning futile?
Is truth an illusion, spun from thin air with no more substance than a cloud? Does justice even exist? Or is it as transient as shifting sand? And what of love: Is it only the means to perpetuate a species? Are we adrift in a sea with no absolutes, one wave overcoming another in the eternal tides?
Such questions are often lost in life’s turbulence as we struggle with the stuff of daily living. Is life a play without a script, a series of frenzied vignettes made up as the drama unfolds? What’s the point or, deeper still, is there a point? Some say, “It is what it is. Don’t look for problems; life’s complicated enough.”
Are we characters in a complex play on a spinning stage against a cosmic backdrop, making up lines that make no sense beyond the narrow here and now? Or do we fit into some larger, mysterious plan?
Questions abound: Is there a source? What is stuff? Where did it come from and what holds it together? Who are we? Why are we? Where did we come from and where are we going? From cradle to grave or beyond?
Are what we call “virtues” absolute and, if so, what is their source? Are love, truth, justice, compassion, humility, understanding, generosity, courage, and self-control human inventions, and as such concepts subject to modification? The recent introduction of “alternate truth” is a troubling example. Can wholesale deportation be described as “alternate justice” or restrictive healthcare be “alternate compassion?”
Did we invent right and wrong? Can something that’s wrong for me be right for someone else? Can my weakness be another’s strength? Just how malleable are qualities once considered enduring? Where does conscience fit in? To what degree is intent an aggravating or mitigating factor?
These questions have no easy answers, but, when considered, they can provide a framework, or what scientists might call a “working hypothesis,” to explain who, what, and where we are, particularly when supported by theology and philosophy. Less exacting or restrictive than science, they, too, probe the unknown.
Faith generates many unanswered and unanswerable questions, but it provides a platform from which to confront the doubt that accompanies any thoughtful consideration of these issues. Faith is a choice; it is the affirmation of hope. Defined as a “confident expectation,” hope assumes doubt. So much of faith is beyond our capacity to understand that a struggle to sustain it is almost inevitable. My journey convinces me that the universe and all in it are not the result of an endless series of cosmic accidents and coincidences with no design or purpose.
My Christian faith involves trust and submission. The Catholic Church throughout history has often failed to live up to its divinely inspired message. As a result, many have left. I remain because I understand that, like any institution, the church is composed of flawed human beings who sometimes do dreadful things. Unfortunately, these failings get far more attention than the good works performed by the church and the many dedicated clergy who persevere in an increasingly secular society. The message of love as set forth in the beatitudes remains my inspiration.
Born, raised, and educated a Catholic, I cannot abandon the faith upon which I have for so long depended as the church contends with the tension between tradition and evolution. The ship may be rusty and taking on water, and it may find itself off course on occasion, but it’s the one I embarked upon in my youth and will remain aboard, hoping to see a light through the fog when the voyage ends.