Thursday, 9 June 2011

Three Frog's and Nils Bohr: I Believe in Faith

Three frogs were happily sitting on a log. Suddenly one of the frogs decided to jump off the log.
How many frogs were left sitting on the log?

The usual answer is two, but is this true? Did the frog leap off the log? We don’t know. We are not told. All that we are told is that the frog made a decision to leap off the log, not that it actually did so. I love this illustration, it speaks to me. It teaches me that whatever we may say, think or even believe means very little unless it is followed by appropriate action, unless we act in faith.

A friend of mine recently posted on Facebook “If you don’t plan your plan, it remains a dream” Interesting I thought and replied “Live it”, which I’m sure sounded a little baffling at the time. What I meant was live the plan, live the dream. We can dream and plan as much as we want, but unless we actually put that into action, it means very little. My friend is a person of action, a person of faith who keeps putting her head above the parapet, despite life’s knockbacks and disappointments. I’m not sure she always sees herself that way, but it’s how she lives her life.

For me the difference between belief and faith is the action. Belief is the plan and the dream, where as faith is putting that into action. Belief informs a decision, which is meaningless unless it is followed up with faithful action. By the way my dictionary disagrees with me. It says “Belief is essentially the acceptance that something is true without the need for proof.” And “faith is a strong belief or confidence in someone or something; or it is a strong belief in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual conviction rather than proof.” My dictionary defines belief and faith similarly and yet I experience them differently. Faith is fluid where as belief is static and rigid; faith is active, it is a way of living, where as belief is a mental construction which I see as a possession, which can never be proved perfectly. Faith is a way of knowing, a dynamic process that gives order and coherence to life. It is a crucial life giving as well as sustaining force, in action, that is forever changing and expanding. Faith in its Greek and Latin roots speaks of trust and commitment. Faith is not a place or status to be attained or a stage to be realized. It is a way of being, moving and transforming. Faith cannot be owned or possessed; therefore it can never be lost or taken away. Whenever I feel that my faith is waning I have discovered that all I have to do is to begin acting in faith once more and I begin to experience it again. Instantly! I never stay stuck on my log for very long.

Belief seems so limiting, where as faith I have discovered is incredibly liberating. Faith, or do I mean “faithing”, reaches way beyond beliefs or concepts. It is an experience that involves relationships between ourselves, others, our world and that which is greater than all and yet present in each. Faith is our relationship with life itself and whatever we experience at the core of it all. Faith is so much more than a mental construction or even a decision; it is an active living experience. It’s more than that though; in my experience living faithfully is also transformative. Well it changed me and my life and it continues to do so.

I believe in faith.

I am going to end this little piece with a story I keep hearing and re-hearing from the life of Nils Bohr. It beautifully portrays the difference between belief and faith.

An American scientist once visited the offices of the great Nobel Prize winning physicist, Nils Bohr, in Copenhagen. He was amazed to find that over Bohr's desk was a horseshoe, securely nailed to the wall, with the open end up in the approved manner (so it would catch the good luck and not let it spill out). The American said with a nervous laugh,

"Surely you don't believe the horseshoe will bring you good luck, do you, Professor Bohr? After all, as a scientist --"

Bohr chuckled. "I believe no such thing, my good friend. Not at all. I am scarcely likely to believe in such foolish nonsense. However, I am told that a horseshoe will bring you good luck whether you believe in it or not."

How many frogs were left sitting on that log?

Below is a short clip recorded at the end of Carl Jung's life. In it he is asked whether or not he believes in God. He gives a curious answer...just watch the smile that appears on his face as he does is one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen.


  1. This reminds me of my favourite quote about faith, which is by Alan Watts (an Episcopalian priest who became a Zen Buddhist in the 1960s):

    "Faith is a state of openness or trust. To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don't grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float. And the attitude of faith is the very opposite of clinging to belief, of holding on. In other words, a person who is fanatic in matters of religion, and clings to certain ideas about the nature of God and the universe, becomes a person who has no faith at all. Instead they are holding tight. But the attitude of faith is to let go, and become open to truth, whatever it might turn out to be."

  2. Great stuff Yvonne...I can feel the truth of that in the marrow of my mind