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Faith: the Basis of Knowledge
A cold, opaque film of condensation lies across the windowpane, separating me from the rest of a world unknown to me. I sat at the windowsill, trying to fix my view on top of the mountain, not realizing that it was my breath that was obscuring my view. I had spent many of my mornings in this same spot and position, trying to commit the picture of the rising sun to my memory. As the sky slowly turned from a sea green to yellow and eventually to blue, I contemplated the forces that created this beautiful sequence--the rising of the sun, and the start of the day. Every morning, I knew that the sun would slowly arc above the mountains, signaling the start of a new day, though I could never fathom how or why. As a child, this was one of my first exposures and experiences that have helped me understand the often-daunting concept and intimidating phenomenon of faith.
Faith is not a word that can simply be defined and then understood. It is a word, a concept, and for most, a way of life. It takes many years and experiences to grasp an understanding of this word. Often, the word faith is applied to a more spiritual point of view instead of a secular perspective. But in my belief, faith is a common occurrence in almost everything we believe, do, and interact with. Faith can be described as the basis for all knowledge. We begin with the innocent and pure faith of a child. Then, as we progress and learn over time, we begin to understand the more intellectual and complex concept of faith. Some accept a divine perspective and application of faith as well, as faith is the underlying principal for any religion. And the combinations of these components of faith amass a vast characterization of this discordantly understood concept.
A philosophical novelist, Kahil Gibran describes faith as “Faith, a knowledge within the heart, beyond the reach of proof.” Children often exemplify this perception of faith. Before children have learned the ways of the world, they are willing to believe most everything they are told or everything they see. They see the truth in the occurrences around them, but they cannot expound on how or why these processes occur. Just as a young child, I knew and could trust that the sun would rise every morning, though I couldn’t explain why. To me, there was no proof that the sun would rise the consequent morning, other than my faith that I simply knew it would. Of course, I subsequently learned as I grew that there was proof that the sun would rise with the turning of the world. But at that small age, I had no way to prove such a concept.
The innocence that a child possesses also affects the faith of that child. As a child is taught more and more about the ways of the world, their faith slowly turns to proven knowledge. But before that child is taught those concepts, it has to rely on a simple faith that those were just the ways of the world, and that it should act accordingly. And to a child, their faith is so incredibly hard to interpret. I know that as a child, I would be asked questions about things I knew and how they worked. For example, in my second grade classroom, I was asked by one of my peers about how I knew that 12x12 = 144. Of course, I hadn’t been taught exactly how multiplication worked and I didn’t know how to explain my knowledge. As I would try to explain my small belief in that concept, all I could say was “It just is” or “That’s just what it does, I can’t explain it.” Those experiences are the epitome of faith of a child--knowledge beyond the reach of proof.
But as time passes, and we grow from naive children to more intellectual and intelligent teens and adults, our perception of the word faith changes. It is common human nature to strive to understand the “how’s” and “why’s” of the world. Most need proof of our knowledge, and simple faith will not suffice. The faith that we relied upon as children is no longer relevant to us, and we won’t accept a faith as an explanation, and so the importance of faith degenerates in our minds. But, more then we realize it, we rely on faith for most every discovery made my mankind. A man must have a simple faith in something, and then act upon that faith to discover something new or create a new idea.
Charles Darwin, before stating his hypothesis and testing the theory of evolution, must have first had faith that his theory was true, in order to have something to act upon -even though it had never been tested or even heard of. His peers and even those superior to him had constantly ridiculed him for his unusual idea. But Darwin, despite the lack of confidence from the people around him and even the doubt of his self-conscious, acted upon his faith and tested his theory.
This is the same principle that is applied before almost any type of discovery or understanding of knowledge. There is first faith, and then true proof of knowledge follows.
Faith has also been the crucial foundation of any belief in religion since religion was founded. To have faith in a religion is “to believe in something unseen and then acting upon that belief.” In a religion, you cannot simply believe in the religion and expect to be viewed as a perfect member. To have faith, you are required to live the principles it teaches, and to continue to teach your beliefs. For example, take Moses from the Bible. According to the Bible, Moses was searching for a lost sheep in the wilderness. While in search, he stumbled upon a burning bush, with the voice of God. Moses, taken aback, was delegated the task of taking the Hebrews in Egypt out of bondage.
And so Moses did as God commanded; he took the Hebrews out of Egypt. And Moses is still considered one of the most important and influential prophets of Judaism and Christianity. Ask any member of these faiths, and they will say that Moses had tremendous amounts of faith in God and his religion.
But imagine a Moses who said that he believed in God, and he had faith, but he never acted upon God’s command. If he said he believed in God and had faith in him, but never actually did what God commanded and live the way he was supposed to. From a religious standpoint, this would mean nothing. He would not be considered a man of faith, because he didn’t act on his faith. And this concept is the foundation of any religion—to have faith, you must believe, and then act upon the belief.
Faith could be considered a target for debate when comparing the religious faith with the everyday faith. No one type is more important, but the concept of faith is different to every individual. If one were to ask a crowd of people what the definition of faith is in their own words, and a few examples of faith building experiences in their lives, they would receive individual, unique answers, because faith cannot be defined as one idea. Each answer would vary, depending on the person’s age, mentality, and maturity. Some consider faith to be un-realistic and silly. But some consider the concept of faith to be the difference between heaven and hell.
The faith of a child is often considered so dissimilar to the faith of an adult and the faith in a religion. The innocent faith of a child is considered insignificant, because they cannot provide any type of logic to back up their beliefs. But when we really consider the meaning of faith—as a word, as an idea, and as a lifestyle—the faith of a child would seem to be the most logical choice. Faith is defined as a belief in things unseen, without proof. Often adults confuse the concept of faith and knowledge. But to a child, the two words are polar opposites. The child does not rely on any type of proof, because they don’t need proof to believe like adults do. If faith is defined as belief without proof, then wouldn’t the faith of a child be the closest application of the word?
Whether it be the faith that the sun will rise in the morning, or the faith that there is life after death, the faith of a child should be considered vitally important to our society. For it is the faith of a child that prompts them to dream, and eventually achieve those dreams as they grow, taking knowledge to new heights. In a quote by Randy Paucsh in his book “The Last Lecture” he mentions, “I sat in front of the television, watching a man land on the moon. Right then, I knew anything was possible.” Faith had started that mission to the moon. And with that achievement, it inspired millions of children around the world to have faith, and to dream.
Faith, an ever-daunting phenomenon, cannot be fully defined as a single idea. Faith is a complex idea, interwoven with so many different examples, meanings, and experiences that have been told throughout time. Faith has to be understood through trial and error, through experience, and through the eyes of the innocent, of those who have not been fully introduced to the faults of the world. Faith is not something that can simply be taught from a teacher to a student. It is something to be learned in one’s own heart.
In the modern world, faith is segregated into religious faith, and common faith in everyday happenings. When comparing the two, people often only see their differences. But these two “meanings” are so much more similar than we realize and we as intellectual beings often fail to see this. And as we grow and progress with our understanding of this basis of knowledge, we will be able to grow together as a civilization, all working toward a similar purpose. And with this understanding, we can reach previously unattainable knowledge.