When structures harden, and crash in to other hard structures, they fracture, fragment, and break. Rocks, tectonic-plated continents, religious systems, political ideas, and of course, hearts. The hardening of our ideological positions holds the danger of rendering us brittle, subject to cracking up down the fault line of our weakness. What might once have been a powerful, beautiful, coherent whole runs the risk of shattering in to meaningless parts. Being too hard, too intolerant of ambivalence and otherness, makes us vulnerable. It does not make us stronger.
There is always doubt in faith (whether that is spiritual and religious faith, or faith in a more secular ideal). Doubt is what makes faith real, it is that which removes it from the realm of fantasy in to the realm of choice. By knowing doubt, and where you stand in relation to it (willing to have it behind you), you can have an honest, flexible, vulnerable and surrendered faith. The fault line of our faith is our gold.
Fanaticism is a failure of flexibility. It is a denial of otherness, a pathological incapacity to know the world may look different through the eyes of the other. The incapacity is in all likelihood born of fear, a fear of what the other may do if they are not controlled. It operates within the psyche as well – in oppression of inconvenient longings, fears, thoughts – in the denial of our doubt.
Opinions, including very strongly held opinions, are a life-giving pillar of our inner and outer life. We orientate ourselves around our opinions and values, create systems for living out of them. But when we become hardened, rigid, monolithic, then we risk crashing in to the opinions of others and breaking up. In an earthquake zone, architects take care to build flexibility in to their structures, so that when the earth shakes the building can move with it. A willow tree bends with the breeze, flexibility allows it to stay strong and standing when met with great force. The heart – and our faith – needs to be the same – strong, stable, but not hard. Clear, but not fanatical. Open, not closed.