Magical Thinking

Saw Bill Maher’s documentary, Religulous this past weekend. It was very good and funny. I was out in the studio attempting to write today, but kept being distracted by my thoughts about it.

I’ll start with this: As Bill Maher’s movie wants us to recognize, the stories of all religions are pretty far-fetched.

But, somewhere, there is an explanation for how we got here and the way everything in nature is all connected; The way every creature is designed with so much specificity, including man, gifted with some awareness and understanding (but clearly, not enough).

Whatever that explanation is, the one we’ll never know because it’s unknowable. It must be an amazing, incredible, unbelievable story. If, somehow, we ever heard the details, could we comprehend them? The real story might seem as ridiculous, as hard to believe, as all the myths and fables of organized religion.

But maybe not. Maybe it would make sense, even seem obvious. The truth has a way of seeming apparent, once you hear it. As Steve Hagen points out in “Buddhism, Plain and Simple.” Believing the truth doesn’t require any faith, one only has to learn to “see.”

But that’s not as easy as it looks.

The most brilliant minds in the world, the ones born with a gift for problem solving and a desperate curiosity to match, don’t know much. There are theories, some, we’re told, have been proven. But for those of us, less gifted, barely able to figure out how to get through the dailiness of life, we require faith to do anything. We have faith in the things we are told, big and small. We believe in expiration dates on food products, for example, and that some things are poisonous. We believe we’ll get well when we’re sick. That someone will love us forever when we marry.

Ok, maybe we’ve grown cynical and don’t believe that love will last, or our leaders will be honorable, or our money, safe in the bank.

Still, we require faith to do almost anything.

So, it’s not so strange that people find comfort in, what seem to be, unbelievable stories. We like to pretend. We need to. It gives us the impression that we are safe, that life is predictable, that we are in control. Could we even function if we didn’t have these fictions woven into our every thought?

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