One of my favorite poems is a six-word gem by Mexico’s Jaime Sabines. The poem reads:
I need to fast.
I think that poem holds the essence of all religious faith.
It reminds me of those young, married Mormons who say, “We’re going through tough straits. We need to be sure to pay our tithing.”
In other words, “We’re almost out of money, we need to give some money away.”
If you’re hungry, you fast — and ask for God’s help.
It’s the kind of thinking behind the Savior’s notions that to find your life, you need to lose your life, and if you want to be first, you have to be last.
It’s the contradiction at the core of Christianity: If you want peace, love and joy, turn to that beaten, bloody man nailed to the cross.
Such thinking is called counterintuitive — contrary to what one would rationally expect. It flies in the face of common sense and flirts with insanity.
You want to live? Die.
You want to rise? Lower yourself.
It sounds totally irrational.
But I think it’s the only way to lift ourselves out of this tar pit we call mortality.
Years ago, my editor Don Woodward sent me off to ride motorcycles with a band of bad boys who were touring the Maze District in southern Utah. Don knew I was a skittish, overly careful kid and he wanted to expand my horizon a little.
He almost expanded my horizon into the next world.
I was a rank amateur as a biker, and those boys were pros. They knew one speed, a speed they called “smoke it.” I had to keep up or be literally lost forever.
Just before the last ride, one of the guys pulled me aside.
“We’re going through deep sand today,” he said. “When you hit the sand at full speed you’ll feel your bike start to slide out from under you and you’ll want to slow down. Don’t. Do the opposite. Hit the gas. It will pull you upright and get you through.”
It is never easy to do the opposite of what your head, heart, eyes and spleen are telling you to do. But I took the man at his word and followed his advice.
I’m pretty sure he saved my life that day.
I put a little faith in his irrational advice and I avoided disaster.
Logic and rational thinking are wonderful gifts to have. But like everything else, they have their place.
Sometimes answers aren’t as clear as they appear.
Sometimes, to save yourself, you need to do something completely irrational — do something counterintuitive and moonstruck.
People who won’t do that aren’t bad people, of course. For myriad reasons they choose to put their trust in their ability to reason.
In my experience, they’re almost always very good people — good people who one day might well find themselves lying dazed and bloody on the floor of the Maze.