Thursday, April 11, 2013

Confidence in Confidence

Seasonal Inevitability:
All Souls Day at the Cemetery in West Lafayette
My friend Beata* and I found this wayward arrangement,
apparently from the previous Easter,
blown into a bank of dry autumn leaves and rubble.

Writing earlier this week of The Unbearable Lightness of Being (click or scroll down) brought to mind the following beautiful Easter meditation taken from the pretend Diary of Emily Dickinson, actually written by Jamie Fuller.

It's Sunday 21 April 1867 -- a late Easter that year -- and instead of attending church with the family, Emily stays home and writes her own sermon. (I'm often tempted to do the same, with so much excellent material at hand, as well as the inclination to liven thinks up a bit: shed a little doubt, spread a little worry, a little realism, a little heartbreak.) In her Easter contemplation, the fictional Emily Dickinson writes not of an unbearable lightness but of a bearable heaviness, the "weight" of "the seeker's burden":

"Morning came with reluctance -- and the sky still mingles tears with hope. We like a vivid Easter -- but Nature -- remembering the first -- chooses a more fitting compromise. The family are at church -- where presumptuous bonnets vie with Faith -- but I prefer to spend this morning with my Bible -- to hear again the story of that Day -- that taught us how to suffer. The Gospels promise permanence but remind us of our evanescence. Even he who died for Truth -- the greatest blasphemy -- could not escape fulfillment of that ageless Prophecy.

"We read the tale -- admonishing the Followers -- but the cock crows many times in our hearts and Thomas sets our example. Faith itself is our cross -- We stumble under it's weight but cannot put it down. How much lighter the step of those who do not bear the seeker's burden"
(p 33).

As a poet, Dickinson forgoes the (perhaps unbearably) "lighter . . . step." I'm struck by Dickinson / Fuller's image of the cock that crows "in our hearts," where doubt resides, and her conclusion that "faith is our cross," cumbersome but bearable. The dual burdens, one of doubt and one of faith, call to mind my favorite passage of the conflicted father in the Gospel of Mark: "I believe. Help thou mine unbelief" (9: 24). Doesn't that say it all? Especially for a Gemini and a doubting Thomasina, what's the difference really? Belief / unbelief: they go together. Doubt / faith: which is heavy; which is light?

As a wise spiritual teacher (I'm not sure who) once said,
“The enemy of faith is not doubt.
Doubt is faith’s friend.
The enemy of faith is fear.”

Not to shock the shy and modest Emily, but I can't help thinking of something irreverent here, one of Stephen Colbert's characteristic quips: "Ladies . . . show a little cleavage. It lets a man know that you're confident enough to show some cleavage!" Not much of an option for the unendowed such as myself; yet I grasp the concept. Of course, the circularity of Colbert's suggestion is laughable; yet, on the serious side, it bears a resemblance to the Easter idea -- we need faith to have faith, confidence to have confidence. As Julie Andrews sings in The Sound of Music, "I have confidence in sunshine, I have confidence in rain . . . I have confidence in confidence alone."**

Or the courage to have courage, like Stephen Dedalus when he says, "I will tell you also what I do not fear" -- and then goes on to list the things he is afraid of, the things he summons the courage to deal with every day.

In closing, another wise teacher (this one I do know) said,
"Fear is an important consultant, but a lousy leader.
You can listen to its advice, but you must not let it lead.
Courage is a wise leader. You should follow it."
Noam Shpancer
from his novel The Good Psychologist (78)


**Such excellent lyrics!
I must include the rest of them here:

I Have Confidence

What will this day be like? I wonder.
What will my future be? I wonder.
It could be so exciting to be out in the world, to be free
My heart should be wildly rejoicing
Oh, what's the matter with me?

I've always longed for adventure
To do the things I've never dared
And here I'm facing adventure
Then why am I so scared

A captain with seven children
What's so fearsome about that?

Oh, I must stop these doubts, all these worries
If I don't I just know I'll turn back
I must dream of the things I am seeking
I am seeking the courage I lack

The courage to serve them with reliance
Face my mistakes without defiance
Show them I'm worthy
And while I show them
I'll show me

So, let them bring on all their problems
I'll do better than my best
I have confidence they'll put me to the test
But I'll make them see I have confidence in me

Somehow I will impress them
I will be firm but kind
And all those children (Heaven bless them!)
They will look up to me
And mind me

With each step I am more certain
Everything will turn out fine
I have confidence the world can all be mine
They'll have to agree I have confidence in me

I have confidence in sunshine
I have confidence in rain
I have confidence that spring will come again
Besides which you see I have confidence in me

Strength doesn't lie in numbers
Strength doesn't lie in wealth
Strength lies in nights of peaceful slumbers
When you wake up -- Wake Up!

All I trust I leave my heart to
All I trust becomes my own
I have confidence in confidence alone

(Oh help!)

I have confidence in confidence alone
Besides which you see I have confidence in me!

sung by the character Maria in The Sound of Music
by Rodgers and Hammerstein

*Beata & Kitti ~ 2 November 2012

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