Faith, Hope, and Love

In your own language

Eduardo Del Buey
Foto: Reuters
La Jornada Maya

Miércoles 29 de abril, 2020

A global crisis like a pandemic leads one to reflect on one’s life.

Finding yourself in quarantine for many weeks, isolated from physical contact with others, leads to introspection and an opportunity to analyze one’s values.

And being away from school or work – situations that tend to define us psychologically – can be stressful. The perceived loss of identity leaves us bereft of a social context and our own identities.

During my days and weeks in semi- and permanent isolation, I have found myself reflecting on these three major tenets of all religions – faith, hope, and love -- and how they affect us when we face potential life or death situations.

First of all, does one believe in a life force beyond our own – call it God, Allah, Jehovah, Krishna, or any other name that we ascribe to the deity in which we believe.

If no, then one sees one’s life as ending completely when one dies. While one can engage in love, one has no faith and one’s hope is circumscribed by the totality of death.

I do not intend to proselytize, only to comment on my own findings in the hope that they may help others in their own reflections.

In my case, I am a believer in a higher power beyond this earthly plane and, perhaps, beyond my personal comprehension. Many people ascribe to their god human qualities to explain what they see as the consequences of divine providence.

I have always refused to do so since, if God were human, God would not be God,

I believe in the supremacy of a power that creates all and permeates all.

This faith leads me to conclude that there is a purpose to life and to al that occurs.

If one believes in the laws of mathematics and physics, one understands that every reaction has a cause. If this is universally true, then my life is the reaction of a cause – why I was born in a certain place at a certain time in a certain environment and with a certain life plan.

If not, human existence has no place in our mathematical universe.

This gives me faith – faith that things happen for a reason and, although I may not know or understand the reason, it exists.

Where life leads is an element of hope – we hope that it leads to something better after this life ends. When one experiences the stresses and fears that the COVID 19 virus has produced in such short time, hope is essential to temper our fears and anxieties and, when combined with faith, give us a sense of direction and survival.

Marie Curie once said that “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less”.

Once we come to an understanding about how faith and hope work together to set out a course of life, we fear less because we see birth not as a beginning nor death as an end, but part of an eternal process that leads from one level of existence to another.

In these times, one recalls Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s admonition that we “have nothing to fear but fear itself”.

And what is fear?

The product of a lack of faith and a lack of hope.

Faith and hope are seeing me through these difficult times. I feel sad for those who have neither, since they may not have the tools with which to deal with the current crisis.

To them goes my love.

Not a romantic love, but a desire to share my vision to give them an alternative to explore and evaluate whether it is relevant to their matrix of values and beliefs.

Love that shows how to shape their values and beliefs to address their fundamental needs and not simply their desires. Needs are spiritual and eternal, desires are material and temporal.

As I have sat at home contemplating all these days, I began to realize that those whom I love are more important than are my material possessions. That the joy I get from simply living is more important than the temporary satisfaction of simply owning. The knowledge that, since I will not take anything with me when I die, are my things really mine? And if not, what is?

A love that creates emotional and spiritual connections that allow us to enrich the lives of others and, in turn, enrich our own.

A love that empathizes and understands, and leads us to listen so that we can understand as well as speak to be understood.

These are the qualities that we have come to expect from our clergy.

But do we expect them from ourselves?

Do we practice them with our families, friends and strangers?

How can we achieve the small unions that can enrich our lives and those of others?

By first reaching into ourselves and calming our minds and hearts.

We begin by taking stock of our lives, understanding those moments of fulfillment and emptiness, analyzing how our values have affected our decisions, and how we can pursue a set of values that meet our deepest needs and not simply our superficial desires.

Is a car more important than our child?

Is a palatial house more important than a loving home?

Is our external appearance more important than who we are in our hearts and souls and those qualities that make us human?

These are questions we must ask of ourselves as we face life threatening situations.

If I survive, how do I become the person that I really not only want to be but also need to be?

And, if I don’t know what I need to be, is it not time to reach into myself and get to know my real self?

And is my real self a self that I really know or simply a self that I have allowed to develop in response to others’ perceptions of me?

Buddha once told his disciples not to dwell in the past, not to dream of the future, but to concentrate the mind in the present moment.

How do I change my conduct and perceptions in order to reach out and touch others and, as importantly, to allow ourselves to be touched by them?

By focusing as Buddha tells us on the present.

The now.

This is the only point in time and in our lives that we can change.

Carlos Fuentes once wrote that the past is written in our memories, and the future is present in our hopes.

If we change our “now” by shedding the traumas of the past, we can liberate ourselves from the chains of the past and spread our wings. If we forgive and forget others who have hurt us or limited or shaped our development in some way, and we meld this with forgiving ourselves, we can succeed in changing the past.

If we change the eternal now, today can become the new tomorrow that we want and, slowly, we will transform our life journey into the experience that we have always sought.

This will give us the “why” to live and, as Nietzsche once said, bear almost any “how”.

So, don’t be afraid to be physically alone in these troubled times.

We have the technology that allows us to reach out to others, and the times of silence to reach into ourselves. Touch others virtually so that when the moment of liberation from quarantines arrives, we can have connected with other souls in meaningful ways, with those who can enrich us and accompany us on our life’s journey.

That is the liberation that we can all achieve and, with faith, hope, and love, gather the strength that we need not only to meet the challenges of the times but also redefine ourselves to make us better human beings.

[email protected]