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When I was a kid, my mother told me that I could do anything I set my mind to as long as I believed in myself. Perhaps you grew up with the same mantra. In the United States, we commonly refer to the apprehension of our goals as the “American Dream” and I wanted to become nothing less than a hero like my dad.
You see, he was an Army Ranger in the 82nd Airborne Division. To those of you not familiar with what that is, just assume that he was pretty badass.
My dad had faith in his country. He had faith in the U.S. Army to provide him with the equipment and training to complete his missions. With this preparation, he was confident in his ability to execute any order given and we, his family, were faithful that he’d return safely home.
We were fortunate.
Despite this faith shared by many other service men and women, countless warriors never return home. Turns out, we cannot always believe our way to success, survival, or even reality. We may believe that we live in the greatest nation on earth, however that is not the consensus among those who feel wronged by us. One might believe that their spouse is loving and devoted, but that does not assuage the reality of an affair. As parents, we want to believe that our kids are making good decisions and aren’t contributing to society’s ills, but sometimes, despite your ardent belief, it’s your child’s face on the evening news. In our darkest hours, we may fall to our knees, cry out to the divine, and believe that this mighty force cares for you and has a plan for your very existence.
But belief doesn’t make God real.
I once told a friend that, in my opinion, belief is a projection that distorts faith. This position is based on the premise that beliefs are highly subjective and specific notions about the object of one’s faith, while faith itself is the allowance of an ineffable ideal subject to speculation and exploration. Therefore I personally have no beliefs about the divine, though I do have faith. We are in what you might call, an “open” relationship.
But I would like to amend what I shared with my friend. It seems belief is also a projection that distorts reality. Like a pebble skipping across a still pond, when we cast our beliefs upon the world, are we seeing reality as it is, or as we’d like it to be? If what we assume is real is only what we observe and we observe the world through the lens of belief, what is in fact real?
Are each of us then, occupying and creating parallel universes based on the projection of belief?
Gandhi once said that we must be the change we want to see in the world, but the problem is that we often project highly divergent visions of the world. Our beliefs then–our projected worlds–collide.
When my mother told me that I could be anything–do anything–so long as I believed, I think she left a few details out. You see, we do not exist in isolation. The Buddha once observed, “This is, that is. This is not, that is not.” In other words, the entire cosmos is interconnected and its very being dependent upon even the smallest of events, the tiniest speck of matter. Each action is an echo that influences millions over the course of time.
So what would happen if we believed in unison and projected our beliefs in harmony as opposed to the cacophony of our individualistic echoes?
I think this is why my dad, and many other warriors, were successful despite losses. They did not believe in the mantra of my mother. When they set out on a mission, it was “We can be anything–do anything–so long as we believe.” Therefore, my dad was an excellent soldier not solely due to individual effort, but because of a chorus of belief.
How far can your individual belief take you? Is your belief more effective going solo, or in joining/inspiring a chorus? You are not simply an island, but a member of the greater archipelago called humanity, and together, we can project a vision of belief on our species that can truly alter our reality.
How will your faith sing today?