From Melbourne to Sydney

 

One often says of oneself as a child, this is where I grew up.  But to me, at least, one doesn’t realise that one has grown up until one leaves that place and returns.
Yes I grew up in Canowindra (New South Wales). I grew up too in Kiama (New South Wales). And then Canberra and Brisbane (although I will never make it as a Queenslander!). And now that I have returned to Sydney that I realised I had grown up some more in Melbourne. And for that much like Mary Queen of Scots feels towards Calais I will be forever grateful.  For Melbourne will be forever in my heart.
That’s not to say I have lessons to be learned. I’ve learnt about the love and honesty (sometimes searingly so) of family and the support whether near or far of friends. I’ve learnt about friendship found false and true. I’ve learnt more about my own heart. I’ve learnt about resilience and faith. I’ve learnt how true it is that the universe both conspires to hinder you at every turn and consummate your hidden wishes once you turn towards it.
The last year or so has been difficult, financially, career wise, mentally and spiritually. Yet in the midst of those not so good times there was joy to be found, comfort within myself and people around me ultimately leading to a path of hope. The secret for me at least was to find out what was most important to me and step by step (in fact fingernail hold by fingernail hold) move towards it everyday. And in doing so, I had to be prepared to lose everything to gain that hope. For faith isn’t mere belief or suspended disbelief: it’s progress towards an unseen goal with absolute certainty that it’s the correct course with absolutely no certainty that it will happen.
But in the past four or so weeks I’ve seen my close family again, changed jobs, moved house, gained a glimpse of a new direction professionally and continued a current direction personally.  But I still have much to learn and still so far to journey.

You Know That Fear Thing

Having a religious upbringing didn’t give me the tools to reconcile faith and fear.

Faith and fear were considered mutually exclusive. Faith

In fact, I can recall sermons where I was told that lack of faith was sinful. I can even find the relevant scripture.

So all in all, to doubt or to be afraid was to sin.

Which creates a contradiction.

Because the opposite of fear is not faith. It’s blind faith. It’s false belief. As James Carse wrote in The Religious Case Against Belief, blind faith is actually wilful ignorance: that ability to ignore anything that might create any doubt in your own mind. Such ignorance is a basic human flaw. It is at the heart of intolerance and the failure to learn from one’s mistakes.

My problem is that blind faith or wilful ignorance has never worked for me. I’m too doubtful. I’m too curious. I struggle to be intolerant and ignorant. I make too many mistakes and need to learn from them.

It’s true that doubt for me can lead to fear. But once fear and doubt is accepted, a different path emerges. It isn’t a path of ignorance and/or intolerance. It isn’t an easy path. Yet on that path is surprise and joy. And that path is lit by an incurable curiosity. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, curiosity is the cure for boredom, but it is a graceful antidote to doubt and ignorance. And that non-easy path includes mistakes. Much like my favourite bad fortune cookie: “You always learn from your mistakes: You will learn a lot today”. Every single moment of every single day. Learn from it and resume the path.

Yet to continue that walk, I need self-acceptance, ongoing self-knowledge and true self-love. Or perhaps better put, self-faith, self-hope and true self-love (none of which is new-fangled anyway).

So how do I reconcile the contradiction of faith versus fear?Ready for the Path?

It’s true that fear and doubt can certainly overwhelm and overcome faith. I’ve learnt that.

Yet for faith to be successful, it must encompass and then accept doubt. As above.

Yet that acceptance of doubt doesn’t guarantee ultimate success. Otherwise, I would live my life relying on fortune cookies.

Many times faith doesn’t grant you what you want: it removes what you thought you wanted and replaces that with something better. And almost always at a different time and place than you expected.

You know that doubt thing: it’s not going away! It’s no easy walk. But it beats standing still.

Faith Challenges and Understanding

"understanding things is overrated"

“Understanding things is overrated”

At home I have a religious plaque on which is written:
Understanding is the reward of faith.
Therefore seek not to understand that you may believe but believe that you may understand
(St Augustine).”

Until recently, I thought it meant that I overcame challenges through faith and received understanding at the end. Hopefully instantly 🙂 Or after a period of waiting, say a month or year! Or longer! Nope!

But right now it isn’t working. And I’ve realised that it hasn’t worked for a very long time!

In essence, I have no guarantee whatsoever that faith given will receive understanding. Even if the challenge is met or not. Ever. What I must accept (with difficulty) is to have faith anyway and accept that I may not receive any understanding at all. Ever. And accept that the challenge may not be met. Ever. Ouch!

And once the challenge is overcome what I do I get? Another test. Another challenge! And that is the pattern.