“I will tell you that at such moments one thirsts for faith as ` the parched grass, ‘ and one finds it at last because truth becomes evident in unhappiness. I will tell you that I am a child of my century, a child of disbelief and doubt, I am that today and (I know it) will remain so until the grave. How much terrible torture this thirst for faith has cost me and costs me even now, which is all the stronger in my soul the more arguments I can find against it. And yet, God sends me sometimes instants when I am completely calm; at those instants I love and 1 feel loved by others, and it is at these instants that I have shaped for myself a Credo where everything is clear and sacred for me. This Credo is very simple, here it is: to believe that nothing is more beautiful, profound, sympathetic, reasonable, manly, and more perfect than Christ; and I tell myself with a jealous love that not only that there is nothing but that there cannot be anything. Even more, if someone proved to me that Christ is outside the truth, and that in reality the truth were outside of Christ, then I should remain with Christ rather than with the truth.” (cited in Dostoevsky: The Years of Ordeal, 1850-1859 by Joseph Frank)
Part of being human is unraveling mystery. We are born into the world and quickly discover touch without knowing that that is what it is called. We experience taste without knowing exactly what our taste buds are actually doing (by enabling us to enjoy our mothers breastmilk). As toddlers we explore grass and sand and in wonderment learn the meaning of the word “rain”.
Time passes. We grow a little older, a little more familiar with words and their meanings. Maybe just daring enough to question our teachers. “What do you mean the world is flat?” one student asks. (c. 460 – 370 BC)
Part of being human is to value that which is longed for. In a similar vein, an aspect of our humanity is found in the discovery of that which is unknown.
Think of the first time a baby opens his or her eyelids. Everything they see is blurry. The sound they hear from their mother they recognize, but the details of her face, that is unknown. The smell of their new world, that is the strongest sense. The mother likewise looks back at her child; she sees them much clearer than they can see her. She interacts with a person she has named and known and often dreamed about, yet never physically handled before. She sees and holds and smells her child in a way that authenticates their relationship.
Why? Because she now has her baby in her arms. Her baby is no longer floating in a shroud of amniotic fluid, but her baby is breathing in oxygen and learning (without knowing) what it means to be alive.
When I read this excerpt from Dostoevsky’s famous letter, I am so taken aback by what he says at the end. I don’t understand him. I think to myself, really? I still don’t understand the sentiment of choosing the idea of Someone when faced with the reality that they just aren’t there at all.
It’s as if saying to a Woman who thinks she is pregnant when she really isn’t, “This baby that you talk about. They are not really there, I’m sorry. You may hope that the child is there and indeed love them with all your heart. But really there is nothing more inside you than organs and blood and water and tissue.” And the woman hears the medical professional tell her this and yet for hope of a child still goes on believing that she is pregnant.
But then again, maybe I can see where he’s coming from. If that Someone had been so real to him, and then one day someone comes along and shows him that he wasn’t there after all, (to say that they were never there at all, ah the horror). Then in that moment, there is a shred in Dostoevsky that is saying he would rather hold on to the person he had known in spite of reality.
I guess I resist the sentiment because I think it has got to be best to choose reality over the idea of Something or someone. It just has to be. How could believing in a fantasy be the more noble belief?
Unless of course the Person to be reality and those who deny him living in a fantasy. For it could very well be that faith will be authenticated by sight but not created by sight. As George MacDonald says, “seeing is not believing, it is only seeing.”
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have now seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled.” 1 John 1:1