Is your faith borrowed from some other person or system, or do you have original faith? Paul Maurice Martin challenges us to ask ourselves this question in his book Original Faith: What Your Life is Trying to Tell You.
Paul is someone whose faith has been tested to the limit. He suffers from a debilitating illness that makes even the simplest tasks, like typing on a computer, extremely painful and difficult. His personal trials have resulted in a faith that is real.
The meaning of life
Paul’s take on this is refreshingly simple and practical. He says that meaning lies not in an intellectual search, but in experiencing what your life is saying to you right now.
We often approach the issue of meaning in life by looking for a reason to live. Real meaning resides in the experience of our love, its purpose, and the self-transcendent identity to which it calls us… Though we may not fully know the meaning of life, we may fully live it.
This is reassuring – that we are living life’s meaning, whether or not we understand it.
Original faith and love
Love is the delight by which we hold another’s presence sacred. Love is the central aspect of our pleasure in someone’s existence, utterly free of ulterior motive and not preoccupied with viewing the other as a means to any end.
According to Paul, love is when another matters to us just because HE IS or SHE IS. Their very existence is what we find joy in and their death an irreplaceable loss because they are no more.
Despair and hopelessness
The book also discusses the dark side of faith. Paul differentiates between being lost in our personal lives, and being lost in life itself.
If we are materially well off, it is possible to despair and yet almost not notice. We can keep it light. There is plenty to distract us. Travel, sports and other leisure pursuits; sex or making money; even the life of the intellect if we are inclined that way. Our despair can remain unexamined and largely unexperienced.
The last sentence made me sit up and wonder. For all the joy I have in life, could I be harbouring some dark despair in the hidden recesses of my mind and heart? ‘Unexperienced despair’ is a new concept to me, and prompted me to do more soul-searching.
Paul’s thoughts on the ego are clear and simple, which makes a complex topic like this much easier to understand.
While love makes others as real to us as we are to ourselves, ego leads us to feel how much less real others seem to be.
My own ego had recently risen to the forefront for personal reasons, and what Paul had to say was liberating for me. This paragraph burned a deep impression in me, and reading them was a life-changing moment. I will remember his words for a long time. Thanks, Paul.
Stop focusing on the person who has caused you insult or injury. Stop judging. When others behave badly, we assume they are not doing the best they can. What if they are? How would we know the difference?
Original faith and ego
In a recent post on selflessness, I wondered if the self could grow to include others and indeed all of humankind. Expanding on the discussion on ego, Paul explains this possibility in terms of proportional thinking and behaviour.
Proportional thinking is thinking that does not elevate or emphasize the needs of self or those with whom we ego-identify over the needs of others.
To me, this notion represents true enlightenment – the realization that everyone else IS me. Acting for the greater good does not go against self-interest, but indeed is merely practical because we are all one.
“Making a day”
Many years ago, I developed my own version of living well: going to bed each night at peace and ready to meet my Maker, because I had lived a day worth living. I love Paul’s term for this – “making a day”.
Making a day means we turn in for the night with a measure of real harmony and peace, knowing that we have not wasted our time on earth that day.
So, do you have original faith?
Paul dares us to look at our lives, experience it fully, and come to our own understanding of life, love, and faith.
A first-hand faith animates us. It gives us the passion, willingness and strength to speak and act from out of what we know concerning who we are.
Do you, too, have original faith?