Beyond Belief / part 3
I’ve given a lot of thought to the nature of belief in the last year, particularly since the announcement of the 2003 Burning Man theme. What does belief look like on the playa-like landscape of the heart? Too often, we’d like to put belief in a strongbox, anchor it in concrete, and place a plaque on it indicating that all questions have been settled, but belief by any definition is a little short on surety.
The American Heritage dictionary says it this way:
1. The mental act, condition, or habit of placing trust or confidence in another.
2. Mental acceptance of and conviction in the truth, actuality, or validity of something.
3. Something believed or accepted as true, especially a particular tenet or a body of tenets accepted by a group of persons.
With the concrete properties that we project onto the act of belief, it’s unsettling to see a definition containing words like ‘conviction’. Convictions are known, almost expected, to change. What does it look like to believe in something – to be convicted, in a sense - with such fervency and intensity that it goes to another level? Once one stumbles into a belief, what steps must follow for that belief to be considered genuine?
Somewhere beyond belief, if that belief is real to the believer, there must be a corresponding, demonstrative action. A scribe once wrote that for a man to face truth and walk away not having acted on it is like a man who looks in the mirror, sees that he’s got leftovers stuck in his beard, and walks away forgetting to do anything about it. To fail to act on your belief is to deny your reality – to resign yourself to a life of unbelief, marked by a history of inaction, and identifying yourself as one of the masses, the true believers in nothing and doers of even less.