Tuesday, October 02, 2012

The Knack of Faith

There are some activities that seem to require a 'knack', it isn't enough to just follow a set of instructions or to have somebody demonstrate the procedure in order to get it. Nor is there necessarily a gradual improvement via practice until mastery is achieved. More often, we will be hopelessly bad at something like this until it suddenly seems to 'click'. Think of patting your head whilst rubbing your tummy. Practice is still required if you haven't learned how to do it yet, but I don't think progress is usually linear.

I wonder if perhaps faith is a knack. If so, it is one I lack even though I can see that to have faith in some circumstances can be very useful. This seems similar to the realisation that accuracy in appraising our abilities can be inversely correlated with a sense of well-being. In this context the phrase 'ignorance is bliss' is fitting, since those who are unskilled at self evaluation but unaware of it, are also less likely to be responsive to evidence that contradicts the basis of their high self esteem: namely that they think they are good at stuff.

Turning back to faith, the ability to take the Kirkegaardian leap in response to our absurd existence might be good for keeping our spirits up when life is difficult. But if the thought occurs that faith in this sense is a bit like the knack of being able to put your fingers in your ears and sing 'la la la' every time somebody is about to tell you bad news, then you might think it better not to have it.