I had occasion to think about faith, rehashing the story of Passover this weekend. I'm generally faith-resistant, and wonder sometimes what it really means to "believe" anything. I'd have had a hard time with Moses, I think. After the long exchanges about faith and skepticism my sis and I had re the Rev. Wright dust-up, I decided to try on a little faith to see how it feels. Faith in what? I don't know. That all will be well, I guess. It feels preposterous, is how it feels. But if I hadn't been at least trying to fake it, I wonder if I'd have been as receptive to this poem by Thomas R. Smith. I'd never heard of him. But I can hear this:
It's like so many other things in life
to which you must say no or yes.
So you take your car to the mechanic.
Sometimes the best thing to do is trust.
The package left with the disreputable-looking
clerk, the check gulped by the night deposit,
the envelope passed by dozens of strangers—
all show up at their intended destinations.
The theft that could have happened doesn't.
Wind finally gets where it was going
through the snowy trees, and the river, even
when frozen, arrives at the right place.
And sometimes you sense how faithfully your life
is delivered, even though you can't read the address.
Up against that, of course, we have the mechanic who does a crap job on your car and inflates the bill, the disreputable-looking clerk who's earned every bit of that bad rep and will make it worse by the time he's done with you, the bank error and ensuing bounced check, the mail that gets lost, the theft that might not have happened but did, with an assault thrown in as a bonus, the wind that not only gets where it was going, but wreaks havoc on the coast, leaving many dead and dispossessed, and the river that no longer arrives because of the Three Gorges Dam, or because global warming has reduced it to a trickle, or because Las Vegas diverted all the water. And all the many ways your life can feel like a square package in a round P.O. box.
Maybe trust is just the small, tenuous act that suggests a larger, more abiding faith. I don't know what I trust either, except maybe the possibility of expressing something about these ideas that's more compelling than the ideas themselves.
That bit about the river being frozen and still arriving is a nod to one of my favorite poems of all time. I was saving it for last, but now I think it'll have to be next.