March 6, 2012


One of my young Facebook friends who resides in India wrote on his page that he was retiring from writing for a while. He said he needed time to think about life. As he is in his early 20’s and I am in my mid 70’s, I didn’t imagine it would be fair for me to tell him that “thinking about life” seldom brings one to a conclusion. Life tends to pose questions rather than provide answers.


But pointing this out to my young friend would be a breach of etiquette, like telling him the name of the murderer in a mystery book he has yet to finish. He must find his own way… his own answers. That is at the heart of living.

Of course, where we begin our journey has much to do with geography. Our parents strive to give us answers but when we move away from home, other influences come into play. Nonetheless, there are two basic paths that lie before us: the rational life and the one of faith. No path is pure, of course. I think I am a rationalist, but I do have faith. I have faith that when I rise in the morning the sun will be there to greet me and that the planets have remained in their orbits. But for the most part, faith seems to me a man-made hope for some purpose larger than ourselves. I cannot fault the longing and often feel the same need, too. Still, what to believe is a puzzle for faith is to willingness to accept an idea for which there is no proof. In the case of religion, there are so many faiths of such contradictory teachings, how does one choose? Or, again, does it largely boil down to the accident of geography, like our language or the type of clothes we wear?  Some escape their backgrounds, I know. But on the question of belief, how can one feel confident he has escaped to a faith truer than the first?  

Some have argued that people accept faith because having a set of rules makes life easy. But I’ve never observed that a life of faith was easy. Truth to tell, I may be the coward for rejecting an existence that strikes me as confined. I have only one faith… only one belief: that we flourish best where tolerance rules.

As he thinks about his life, I hope my young Indian friend will come to a similar conclusion about tolerance and that despite the distance of our geography, he will one day return to our conversations. Through the words of the Persian poet Jalal ad-Din Rumi, (1207-1273) I send this standing invitation:

          “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there.”