Expressions of faith

Murmurs from the Bathroom Wall

creative commons/Courtesy

Note: Each week in this blog, I will examine a piece of graffiti, typically those scrawled on bathroom walls from around campus. My aim is to take these anonymous musings to a greater discussion that hopefully relates to the student body at large.

After scoping out what at this point feels like hundreds of bathrooms — even darting into a handful of men’s restrooms only to scamper out suffocated by the stench — I can tell you that the graffiti which provoke the most heated discussions are those that mention God.

The pattern is pretty typical. Someone will write the worn-out “Love yourself!” line, which will be followed by “Love God!” which inevitably erupts into a full-blown, penned-out argument on the existence of God, complete with Bible verses and Nietzsche quotes. Check the stalls of Evans Hall or VLSB women’s restrooms if you don’t believe me.

No other topic inspires such passion or arouses such anger as religion does. Whether scrawled in bathroom stalls or espoused in Senate committee hearings, religious arguments seem to be a daily occurrence, but ultimately accomplish nothing more than exasperating all those involved. By the end of such debates, no views have been changed. As many wise men and women before me have said, this is because of the irreconcilability between faith and rationality — two entirely different modes of argument that yield no unified answers when pitted against each other.

I have always leaned on the rational side of things. That which can be quantified, measured, and tested, I believe, provides better solutions to humanity’s ails than do ideas based on scant evidence. As Hebrews 11 puts it, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Religious faith is belief in the invisible, unheard, intangible. For that reason, I have a great deal of respect for those who can sustain such beliefs in a world frequently at odds with them.

How faith is defined, however, means almost nothing. What faith does is the much more important piece. Faith is the thing that grounds you. In a world of confusion, filled with questions oftentimes too large for us to answer, faith is what ties us down to the earth, stops us from sinking below its surface or flying too high above the clouds.

This type of faith, however, need not be religious. My own faith is secular, but it accomplishes the same end as religious faith does: It tethers me to the earth. The faith I found lies in other people — in their capacity for good, their struggles and their successes. It works beautifully in tandem with rationality as well, an added bonus.

Faith comes in all flavors. I learned this on one particularly wasted day over winter break when I was watching the disturbingly addictive show “Strange Sex.” The first half of an episode showcased a couple, Phillipe and Donna, whose relationship was based on a feeder-feedee fetish. Phillipe would feed Donna immense quantities of food, helping her to tip the scales far past 600 pounds, a huge sexual turn-on for both of them. When Phillipe went to work, Donna would stay at home and work on her goal of reaching 1,000 pounds, consuming quantities that would make any nutritionist queasy. I think of this example because, health issues aside, for Donna, food is faith. Food is her purpose, the thing that both literally and metaphorically ties her down to the earth.

While some forms of faith might be more socially accepted than others, I believe that faith is vital to have. It gives our lives some semblance of meaning greater than ourselves. It gives us a hand to hold (or a fistful of bacon to grab) when facing the daunting questions of life. Instead of letting these differing faiths divide us, we should strive to be united in their common purpose. In the end we are all searching for the same answers and as soon as we realize that there will be one less religious bathroom wall debate.

Image Source: liquidsunshine49 via Creative Commons

Contact Kimberly Veklerov at [email protected]