During the course of my free time I like to discuss religions and spirituality with other people. It’s interesting to me to see all the different ways people make sense of their existence and how they relate to it. There are as many views as there are individuals so it’s an endless source of fascination for me. Over the years, I’ve found this brings me more in touch with my own views and understandings.
There has always been one concept that eluded any firm understanding for me. That was the issue of “Faith”. Again, it’s a term that holds a highly personal definition and if asked, most folks define it as belief without facts. That’s never left me feeling satisfied although I understand the premise. You trust in something you can’t physically see or touch.
Recently, my understanding of Faith has gone deeper. It happened as I was immersed in the memory of sitting in the Joyo Theater in the little hamlet of Havelock, in Lincoln, Nebraska, when I was 13 or 14 years old. My friends and I had ridden our bicycles down to the local theater that hot summer’s day, enjoying the ever-expanding freedom of our tender young years, to see the summer blockbuster, Jaws.
I’ve always been very impressionable and the sanity behind this decision, as with many in my life, was lacking in the moment. But I guess that’s the beauty of youth. You live in the moment without question. Until the lights went down and those first eerie thumping strains of music announced the approach of something sinister. That’s when my heart went into my throat and my popcorn, watery drink and friends went forgotten. All prior beliefs were suddenly and entirely suspended. The movie became unerringly and unquestionably real. The unaware swimmer felt a bump and I swear I felt it too. I pulled my feet up and tucked them safely under me. I even remember the crusty and worn feeling of the velvet cushion because in my rising terror it was a brief comfort. It wasn’t water. Then came the attack.
My panic surged and ran down my cheeks in the form of tears. I clinched the sticky arms of my seat. I wanted to run. Then something inside me said, “look up.”
Tearing my eyes from the screen I did just that. I looked up at the flickering beam of light coming from the projectionist’s booth high above me. And I took a breath. I have no idea how long I’d been holding it, but that breath was like water to a soul lost in the desert. I remembered it was just a movie. Nothing more than the play of light on a screen projected from somewhere else; somewhere unseen. I had created all that terror all by myself. I wasn’t in danger. There was no shark. No salty ocean. These things were only dreams in Lincoln, Nebraska. Our ocean waters were corn and wheat. Sharks were monsters from dreamland.
It was in the remembering of this moment so long ago that the understanding of “Faith” took concrete form in me. I realized we view our lives as if we’re watching a movie. What’s playing on the screen and the theater it’s being viewed in are all different for each one of us. Whether we subscribe to a god-concept or not is immaterial. The religion we follow, if we follow one at all, doesn’t matter. At some point the movie we’re watching becomes too intense, too frightening, too painful and something inside us whispers “look up.” This is Faith.
We tear our eyes away from the screen, sometimes just for a fleeting moment, to look up at the flickering beam of light coming from somewhere else. We take a gulp of air and clarity washes away the imagined reality of the movie. We remember where we are. It’s just a movie. We remain unchanged.
Life is our movie theater. It’s so easy to get swept up into the drama playing out on our respective screens every day that we suspend our innate knowing of who we are and lose ourselves in self-created illusion. Thoughts and emotions bind us in their unrelenting grip and our reality then becomes as illusory as the “movie” we’re watching. All we have to do is look up to be reminded it’s just a play of thoughts on a screen.
Breathe and remember who you are. You are unchanging in a sea of light play. You are untouchable and Faith is your reminder.