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What If a Bear Comes?

Faith, Doubt and the Engines of Despair

April 21, 2020 by

brown bear

All deliberate action flows from faith. To get out of bed requires faith that the floor will support you. To drive on a two-way street requires faith that the oncoming cars will not veer into your lane. To go to an emergency room and submit to the ministrations of total strangers requires that you have faith that these strangers have the knowledge and the will to help you. To cross a street on the strength of a traffic signal requires that you have faith that oncoming cars will see and obey the signal. To go on a morning walk on a forest path along the banks of the Hudson River requires faith that you will not be accosted and eaten by a hungry bear.

To speak to anyone requires faith that the listener will understand the meaning and intent of your words.

Doubt is the enemy of faith. Doubt predicts failure. Doubt suggests negative outcomes. Doubt calls on logic and experience to destroy faith. Doubt is the handmaiden of paralysis – every move we make stands on faith.

Even criminal behavior flows from faith: A faith that one will not be caught, a faith that lies and violence will not return to confront the perpetrator, a faith that reality can be remade into the shape of one’s dark deluded fantasy.

And then of course the question of religious faith. Faith in the existence of God? Faith that God is good? Faith that religious doctrine is true? Faith in what someone else says? Here the question or questions suggest themselves. What and or who should I believe? Or more simply put: Why should I put my faith in this person or that, this doctrine or that?

Faith in God often flows directly from an experience which transcends the limits of rational thought, philosophical argument, or some flight of persuasive rhetoric.

Faith in God often flows directly from an experience which transcends the limits of rational thought, philosophical argument, or some flight of persuasive rhetoric.

The mind’s ubiquitous argument against faith flows inexorably from thoughts like What if a bear comes? “What if” becomes the commander of an infinite regress of thoughts whose sole object is to destroy faith, to crush initiative and to drown consciousness in the dark imagery of despair. Faith is not an argument against learning, growth, or experiment. It is the indispensable condition for engaging in life, responding to challenge and for overcoming ignorance.

And for each of you reading this article, it is still up to you to figure out what to do if a bear comes.

Allen Wood lives at the Mount Community in Esopus, New York where his morning walks with his wife along the Hudson River lead to musings on hungry bears and more.


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Allen Wood

Allen Wood

Allen Wood lives with his wife Gio at the Mount Community.

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