The Belief Catch-22
Today I went to Chania with my family, a beautiful town in Crete. We turn a corner on the harbour and I saw a mosque, this incredibly old, gorgeously simple mosque called The Mosque of the Janissaries. And it got me thinking about belief.
Mosque of the Janissaries
What’s your belief system?
Big question. How do you even go about answering that – Religion? Astrology? Football? Faith? Belief? What’s the difference even between those two words? Lots of questions all of which I almost can guarente won’t be answered in today’s post which I guess fits. After all, our belief systems, no matter what they are, are there to answer questions or at least guide us to clarity, right? But today I want to open that can and try and mindmap it out a bit.
Everything happens for a reason.
Selfishly, I’m going to start with myself because it’s the best example I have. So what’s my belief system? Well I’m Sikh, so I am religious but I’m also a big believer in Astrology and also fate and destiny. My catchphrase in fact could be “everything happens for a reason” because it’s immediately what I think and feel if something goes “wrong”. It’s a comfort for me and it makes me produce hope in a time when it sometimes couldn’t be tougher to be positive.
Interestingly though, astrology, fate and destiny are also major parts of Sikh, Indian Punjabi culture. We have traditions of checking star charts before marriages and a word adopted through colonialism is “kismet” •kiss-muth• meaning fate or destiny, “it’s in your kismet” being a phrase I heard more often than not growing up and one I’ve adopted now. And I guess that’s where faith and belief intertwine like two sides of a piece of paper, different but inseparable.
“Because that’s what these systems are, right? Comfort.“
I think though faith feeds into belief in an important way. I have beliefs as a person, we all do. And these don’t have to be religious or even based on some kind of system, even though it seems natural (ironic given these are generally manmade systems). But I believe the worlds round and it’ll spin for tomorrow. I believe in Sikhism and I believe mothers truly gain a sixth sense when they have kids. But I have to have faith in these beliefs surely? In order for these to comfort me in times of need I have faith that my beliefs are true and those are my truths. Because that’s what these systems are, right? Comfort. Comfort for the fact that we don’t have the answers for everything, virtually nothing and what’s more, what really matters, our planet and our universe are out of our control.
And I reckon this doesn’t sit right with humans.
We like to be in control. We like to know and we’re naturally curious. It’s annoying when we don’t know and when we don’t have the reigns so, our answer to the unknown is our belief systems that, I guess, work as an energy source to keep us going when we most need it, or even all the time.
And I think we have to believe in faith as well. It’s damn hard when you realise how out of your control life actually is and there comes a point I think, for some, not for all, in which we have to submit to believing in ourselves, our own ability and our faith. It’s hard to grasp and it doesn’t apply to everyone.
This was one of my IB art pieces – a reaction to seeing 9/11. A piece that centred around belief and faith more than I realised.
I want to look at luck for a minute. I think luck can be seen as a belief or faith system but there’s almost a more general feel towards it, like it’s been generalised. It’s more of a saying now, “good luck!” rather than a devout belief that you’ll need luck. And I think it’s a great example of how beliefs can be normalised into our cultures and our discourse. It doesn’t have the same meaning in England that it does in China due to a collective of people and their belief or scepticism.
Beliefs change and hence what we put our faith in changes. I think that’s okay because there’s no empirical evidence to these things that’s universally recognised. But also, quite simply, humans make mistakes. We do put our faith in the wrong things and that’s okay. Because whilst it may have suited us then, it doesn’t now.
To believe is a choice.
It applies predominantly through growth. Beliefs are an environmental factor much like your accent built upon what you see, know and hear. In my case passed down through my parents and built up with my own knowledge through independence, but I’m lucky enough to have independence to the extent where I am free to choose. And I think it’s important to understand that these belief systems are man made and to believe is a choice, therefore we have every right to change those beliefs if we feel they don’t work for us. Everyone has the right to believe in what they want and not be prosecuted for that and sometimes I think that can get lost amongst the dedication of human faith.
I believe in the teachings of Sikhism, I believe in my best friend and I being compatible because of our star signs and I believe in God. There’s a lot I still have to figure out which I know sounds ironic to the rest of this post, but for me, in myself, within the limits of my consciousness I have things to figure out. So until then, adios.