I admire people who have faith. Religious faith in particular is a quality that seems to have eluded me most of my life. I would truly love to be able to let go and let God, as the saying goes.
It has to be comforting to think that there’s a higher power who has ultimate control. It must be liberating to not have to think you are the primary decision-maker in your own life, that the buck doesn’t stop here after all, that some cosmic being is on your side, and therefore a large amount of the responsibility belongs to someone or something else. It would be so nice to guess that your fate has already been mapped out for you. That there’s a plan. What a weight would be lifted from my shoulders! I’d also love to think that prayer could solve my problems.
I just can’t do it. I like facts. I want evidence. Proof. Otherwise, how is it different from believing in unicorns?
I wish there were unicorns. I’d love to see a unicorn. I’d love to live in a world where unicorns wandered the streets. But I live in the real world.
Here’s what gives me comfort: we’ve learned so much about the universe and how it works that it becomes increasingly easy to not rely on the great unknown to answer the decreasing number of unanswerable questions. We know what causes eclipses these days. Nothing is devouring the sun.
Now, the trick is to maintain a moral compass when you technically don’t answer to anyone other than yourself. Perhaps that’s the kind of faith I need to nurture: the concept that humans have the maturity to be capable of morality without oversight.
Many years ago I helped a friend fold a thousand origami cranes for someone who had a brain tumor. I’ve always found the Japanese legend of the thousand origami cranes to be delightful. Some say that they will bring you good luck, or a long life, or restored health. Most believe that you must fold them yourself, and complete them within one year, but I often see people making them for others. Fathers will give them as a wedding gift to their children, or they can be given to a baby for long life and good luck. They are also given to certain temples as a prayer for peace.
What I enjoy most about this tradition is that it’s sort of the physical manifestation of a prayer. I’m not one who prays. The only time I even think about doing so is when I feel helpless. Either I’m in a bad situation or someone I love is. Then I think about praying, but am fairly confident that it won’t do any good. So when feeling helpless like that, it would be comforting to be doing something. It would be good to at least live for a while in the illusion that I have some control. Folding cranes will do nicely.
Also, I do believe that it never hurts to make your positive desires visible to those around you. Saying that you wish someone well is a wonderful thing to do, but origami cranes last longer, take more effort and therefore demonstrate your sincerity, and hey, they’re pretty.
Ironically, after I had already written this entry, I came across this statue for the first time in Seattle’s Peace Park, not far from where I work. I have no idea how I overlooked it all this time.
If you’d like to learn how to make an origami crane, check out this nifty tutorial:
Although I didn’t reach its summit, I know I reached the highest elevation I ever have in my life, because the air was so thin I could barely function. That is something I never experienced before or since. I contented myself with taking in the view, which included her sister volcano, Iztaccihuatl. That was an amazing day, one for my bucket list.
Whenever Popo blows her top, I worry for the people in the surrounding villages. These people were very warm and welcoming to me. They made me feel safe and comfortable. It pains me to think that during times of eruptions, they themselves are far from safe and comfortable.
When a tragedy causes you to have feelings of concern mixed with nostalgia, it can be very hard to reconcile those contrasting emotions. During times like these I feel helpless. I also better understand why people take so much comfort in prayer.