Doubt and Faith: Sides of a coin

Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother.       

-Khalil Gibran 
 
A fever or pain is itself not a disease but an immune response in a form of an indication that a struggle is started within the body; something went wrong whether an outsider intrusion or internal imbalance which needs immediate attention and some remedial action. The same is true with the feeling of doubt. Doubt is an indication of somewhat disturbed belief system which needs immediate attention and some remedial action. In the words of William Shakespeare, “Modest doubt is called the beacon of the wise.”  
 
I heard a story about Gautam Buddha who once was taking rest outside a village. A passerby recognized him and greeted. He, despite being theist, asked Buddha “Do God exist?” Buddha replied “No.” He passed with a state of despair on his face. Another passerby asked the same question to Buddha but he was an atheist; the reply came “Yes.” He also walked with desperate face. Third one came and said “It doesn’t matter for me whether God exists or not, but, since I met you it is not unwise to ask you so I am asking do god exist?” Buddha said “May be may not be.” Buddha’s disciple sat beside him and was listening all questions and answers and finally asked “All of them asked the same question but you replied differently I don’t understand why? Which one is correct?” Buddha replied sheepishly “All of them were correct for those whom given and none of them for you. The thirst of truth could not be quenched by firm belief in prejudice but through curiosity i.e. asking smart questions and meeting their answers. I was just breaking prejudices of the first two and the third one was already in that state.”
 
It is not that we don’t know answers but we don’t know how to ask questions. The moments of doubt could be used to learn asking question. Most people thought being a part of question as failure and want to be a part of solution. It is okay but when the same principle is applied to doubts then the opposite happens. Doubt doesn’t teach answers but questions. It is the question that meets answer. Dennis Palumbo, a former Hollywood screenwriter and now a licensed psychotherapist in private practice, said “The plain fact is, the more willing you are to mine the landscape of your own doubts, the truer and more recognizably human your characters will be.”
 
Quantum physics reveals nature as a realm of knowledge. The physical theory has become converted from a theory about `physically reality’, as it had formerly been understood, into a theory about human knowledge. Freedom is granted to each experimenter to choose freely which experiment he will perform, i.e., which aspect of nature he will probe; which question he will put to nature. Then nature is allowed to pick an outcome of the experiment, i.e., to answer to the question. These elements of `freedom of choice’, on the part of both the human participant and nature herself, lead to a picture of a reality that gradually unfolds in response to choices that are not necessarily fixed by the prior physical part of reality alone. The basic building blocks of the new conception of nature are not objective tiny bits of matter, but choices of questions and answers.
 
Doubt is like a situation where one stands at an intersection of roads and does not know which one is correct for his destiny; which one to choose. Doubt is a state of mind in which one is struggling between opposite propositions and unable to stick either of them. Doubt is not the situation of multiple choice options but doubt against each option in terms of its validity whether it is true or not. On the basis of logic, doubt could be understood in two ways: one in which logic could be applied equally by both side, i.e. for the proposition or against the proposition and second in which logic could not be applied by any side due to lack of evidence. In either case logic could not be of much help but faith. Logic needs axioms to spin arguments. Mark Twain said “when in doubt tell the truth.” Truth could not be an interpretation of brainstorming but a direct message. Truth is something that sprouts from within and requires faith to act upon it. William James said “faith means belief in something concerning which doubt is theoretically possible.”
 
A child was born in the year 570 and raised from the milk of nomad, vicarious mothers in the desert of Arabia. He tended sheep and soon hired out to a rich widow as leader of her caravans. In 595, the widow aged 40 and was 15 years older than he, looked upon him with favor and married him. He continued his living as a rich and respected trader. Each year during Ramdan, the ninth month of lunar calendar, he wandered in mountains surrounding Mecca to refresh himself with solitude and prayer. In the year 610, at the age of 40, the humble trader took himself on one of these retreats in the cave of Mount Hira and suddenly found someone calling him to proclaim. He terrified and ran out of the cave. At first, he thought, it had to have been a hallucination; a trick of the eye or of the year or his own mind working against him. He even thought worst about being possessed by an evil spirit to deceive him and to crush life out of him. He was deeply distressed and resolved to commit suicide. The man who fled down the mountain that night was in a state of stark, primordial fear and overwhelmed not with conviction but by doubt. Slowly and gradually he learned to have faith along with confusion and struggling. He continued his prayer and fast. After three years, once again, he heard from the same source “By morning brightness and by the stillness of the night, Your Lord has not forsaken you, nor has He become displeased, and surely what comes after is better for you than that which has gone before.  And soon will your Lord give you so that you shall be well pleased.” He was Prophet Muhammad, founder of Islam and this was the beginning of holy Quran and faith in one “Allah” which started with a terrifying doubt. Lesley Hazleton, author of ‘The First Muslim’ said “It was precisely Muhammad’s doubt that brought him alive for me, that allowed me to begin to see him in full, to accord him the integrity of reality. And the more I thought about it, the more it made sense that he doubted, because doubt is essential to faith.” In the words of Henry David Thoreau, “Faith keeps many doubts in her pay. If I could not doubt, I should not believe.”  
 
As it is said that excess of anything is bad, so is with doubt. Excess of doubt creates fear which ultimately leads to frustration and misery. One should make a stand and act accordingly with faith. On the other extreme, if all doubts are abolished, then what remains is not faith but absolute heartless conviction which leads to self-righteous arrogance.
 
All innovations whether scientific or spiritual are results of doubt: doubt over existing system. They are the answers put forward by nature as a result of the questions raised in doubts and nurtured by faith. All religious system did not origin at the same time but gradually doubting over the previous system as Buddhism from Hinduism and Islam and Christianity from Judaism. But the followers stop asking questions and show their blind faith which resulted in decline of religions because the questions have changed and they are still giving the same old answers. If they do not assimilate current questions then they are preparing grounds for new religions. The existence of many religions is the outcome of fundamentalist thinking prevailing in the religion which is not ready to accommodate new questions.
 
Faith has no easy answers. It involves an ongoing struggle, a continual questioning of what we think we know a wrestling with issues and ideas. It goes hand in hand with doubt in a never ending conversation with it and sometimes in conscious defiance of it. What drives us is that, despite our doubts and even because of our doubts, we reject the nihilism of despair and insist on faith. Consider the ambivalence as put by Frederick Buechner, “If you don’t have any doubts you’re either kidding yourself or asleep. Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving.”
 
Faith and doubt both are needed not as antagonists, but working side by side to take us around the unknown curve.
-Lillian Smith  

Procrastination- Termite of Success

There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way and not starting.       -Gautam Buddha
 
Do you put things off until tomorrow? Do you get sidetracked from your goal by involving in many low priorities tasks? Do you wait for the perfect time to do things and then miss opportunities? Do you avoid dealing with difficult issues with the hope that they will go away? Do you ignore minor problems until they turn into full blown predicaments that demand your immediate attention? If all or any of the answer is ‘yes’ then you are suffering from a serious ailment called procrastination.
 
Termites are small insects often referred as white ants. They live inside wood and eat it from inside. From outside, the wood looks healthy, okay and normal but from inside due to eating of termites become hollow and thus useless and of no practical importance of any kind. A huge tree could be fall by a little blow or its own weight owing to its hollowness from inside as a result of termite activities. The problem of termite is considered very seriously in many countries of the world that no insurance is guaranteed to those houses which are found to be infected by termites.
 
Procrastination may be considered as termite of success. Like termite, the habit of procrastination eats away the personality of a person from inside. He may look normal and confident in appearance but from inside he is broken and could be blown away by little push of life.
 
A bollywood blockbuster ‘Tare zameen par’ literally mean ‘Stars on the earth’ is a story of child who is suffering from a learning disorder called dyslexia in which one is having difficulty in learning to read fluently and with accurate comprehension despite normal intelligence. The child in the movie conceals his inability of reading and writing properly into his naughtiness. Others think of him as mischievous and wicked but he is helpless and do not want to reveal his incompetence to become a subject of prank among others. He found his self respect in being called as naughty but do not to become a center of pity and sympathy in society. The problem is same with procrastinators. Procrastination appears as laziness, the habit of resting before one gets tired but underlying problems may be different and even serious.
 
Procrastination is not mere laziness but a mask behind which deeply rooted serious threats of success are hiding. The underlying problems may be inadequate purpose, lack of goal or motivation, shortage of planning, lack of physical or mental strength to execute plans, fear of criticism or rejection, fear of committing mistakes or taking risks etc. Sometimes lack of concentration also fans procrastination. Arrange a separate working place, make its environment work friendly and do not let others to enter it and disturb its interior harmony.
 
Write down your goal and purpose for achieving the goal. Try to give a pictorial representation either by self drawing or cutting pictures from somewhere else and pasting on paper. Daily review it at least twice a day; one before sleeping and another just after awaking in the morning. If possible, try to visualize it on mind’s screen at junction of eyebrows and nose. If you are seeing it in dream while sleeping is a good sign.
 
Make a schedule of your daily work and include activities of morning walk and listening music in daily routine.
 
There was once a problem with Indian Railways. Indian Railways is the world’s ninth largest commercial  employer and one of the world’s largest railway networks comprising 115,000 km of track over a route of 65,000 km and 7,500 stations. The problem was untimely running of trains. This created a situation of panic over the nation. Lots of complex strategies were discussed over the issue but solution came in the form of simple idea; an idea of extending duration of running time between the stations. If you are not able to finish your assigned work in the given time then reschedule time span with requisite extension. This will boost a new energy and confidence in your bloodstream.
 
Prepare a hierarchical list of procrastination activities based on your extent of resistance. Start with lower level in the list having less resistance to activity. Action is the only antidote to procrastination. Ralph Waldo Emerson said “A man is hero not because he is braver than anyone else but because he is brave for ten minutes longer.” Just do it when you feel procrastination’s cloud over your head. In the words of Pablo Picasso “Action is the foundational key to all successes.” After successful completion of task, reward yourself. Reward may be anything; it may be collection of pebbles for each completion. It is a symbolic activity to reassure you that you have done this and could do anything else. By seeing your collection and increasing numbers of pebbles in it infuse a new enthusiasm in you.
 
Fear is nothing but indecision and postponement. Indecision crystallizes into doubt; the two blend and become fear. On the other hand, a firm decision melts fear and its execution in form of action evaporates away the fear.
 
The art of a young cartoonist was stated as rubbish and rejected by many cartoon editors. He was Walt Disney whose concept of Mickey Mouse was widely acclaimed and even considered as masterpiece. J. K. Rowling, author of Harry Potter, was rejected by 25 publishers. So procrastination directed by fear of criticism or rejection is a lame excuse for not to proceed a action.
 
Mistakes are footsteps of learning. The most important fact about mistakes is that many important discoveries and successes came about as a result of so called mistake. Charles Goodyear, during an experiment in 1839, accidentally spilled a mixture of sulphur rubber on to a hot stove. The result of this smelly-smoky was vulcanized rubber and the birth of a billion dollar industry. The group of effective medicines on bacterial infection called antibiotics was also discovered as accidental mistake.
 
The greatest risk ever mentioned in history is the risk of not taking any risk and if you are prepare to take that risk then you are capable of taking any risk.
 
Just do it! First you make your habits; then your habits make you.    -Lucas Remmerswaal