Whenever I go to Maui, I learn something. Not from a book, holy or otherwise. Not from a person, revered or otherwise.
From experience. The best teacher.
Usually from one of my favorite experiences, bodyboarding, which I'm only able to do in warm wavy water, something Hawaii has in abundance (in my home state, Oregon, we've got great ocean waves, but, damn, they're cold.)
After some middling-good wave days, OK but not Wow'ish, the ocean swells on Napili Bay became the way I like them: big, and breaking nicely over reef rocks midway in the bay.
By 8 am my bodyboarding-crazed brain had spurred me to paddle out, the only person sane or crazy enough to be in the water at that time. I caught a nice wave right away. And proceeded to ride wave after wave after wave, until my 64 year old body said "enough, dude."
It was a peak experience. Catching large waves makes me feel absolutely great. No matter what happens after bodyboarding (a.k.a. boogieboarding), after just one ride on a big breaking wave I know this has been a well-lived day.
Returning to our condo, I rested. I picked up a book I'd been reading, Galen Guengerich's God Revised: How Religion Must Evolve in a Scientific Age.
Some of what he wrote helped me understand conceptually what experientially I know every time I catch a breaking wave. Here Guengerich is speaking of a form of "faith" that is much different from blind belief in religious dogma.
But if our faith is not acceptance of supernatural revelation, what is it? Let me be candid. Faith is something no one fully understands. It peers into the realm of mystery and transcendence, of meaning and purpose, of value and satisfaction.
In the modern world, people of enlightened faith live on the boundary between things we know for certain and things we can never fully comprehend.
...Faith requires a leap of the moral imagination to connect the world as it is to the world as it might become... Faith looks at what is and imagines what might be.
I didn't agree with everything Gunegerich wrote in his "Keeping the Faith" chapter. But these words rang true to me.
There's a moment in bodyboarding, as in surfing (I've never surfed, but I've caught a lot of waves, just as surfers do) when you're on the edge. You don't know. You're not sure. You're in the realm of maybe.
Maybe I'm going to catch this wave. Maybe I'm not.
Sometimes I'm almost certain that I will; sometimes I'm almost certain that I won't. Those varieties of certainty become more accurate with experience -- knowing that when a wave like this, is acting like that, and I'm positioned here, such-and-such will happen. Still, there's always that maybe.
A big part of what makes bodyboarding so satisfying and fun is maybe. Uncertainty.
Even when I'm caught in the curl of a wave, feeling "this is going to be a good ride," surprises can happen. Waves can act in mysterious ways. I've been dumped upside down so quickly it made my head spin (literally). And I've had a wave pass me by that I figured I was almost sure to catch.
When life is certain, it lacks meaning. For me, at least. I'm always just talking about me, when I'm speaking about meaning. There's no meaning without a me. And for me, I'm the only meaning-making me I know directly.
Your experience of life may be different. However, I suspect that if you reflect on the happiest, most satisfying moments you experience, they will include a big dose of "maybe."
Certainties feel mechanical. Gears revolving, producing an expected outcome. Click, click, click. Certainties aren't human. They aren't natural. The laws of nature, though orderly, usually don't produce completely calculable life experiences.
If I knew exactly what was going to happen every time I see a large wave approaching and I position myself to catch it, bodyboarding wouldn't be nearly as much fun. The joy I feel doing it is much enhanced by living on that mysterious boundary Guengerich speaks of.
The boundary between what is, and what will be. Which also is the boundary between what was, and what is.
We are part of something much bigger than ourselves. I prefer to call it "cosmos" rather than "God." But, hey, words can't encompass it; knowledge can't explain it; expectations can't predict it. When the part of the cosmos that is me is engaged with the part that is ocean waves, I feel these things acutely.
I don't know. I'm clueless. Mystery always looms over, under, in front, and back of me.
Whether out in the ocean or inside my brain, I can't predict with total accuracy what will happen next. This is what "faith" really is: being OK with that. It isn't being certain. About God, life after death, salvation, or anything else.
It's waiting for the next wave of life to arrive (yeah, they do keep on coming; no stopping them) with open arms, mind, and heart. Not understanding. Not knowing. Not being sure. Just feeling, "I am you, and you are me, and we are all together."
(So sang someones famously, sort of.)