This I Believe

Logan - Pullman, Washington
Entered on April 21, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30

I know of no other way to describe the relationship between reason and trust than with the term ‘circular believing.’ Skilled wind instrumentalists have perfected the art of circular breathing – breathing in through the nose and expelling air out the mouth at the same time, so that a single note can be held indefinitely. In doing so, they seem to do two things that ought to be mutually exclusive, physiologically impossible – inhaling and exhaling simultaneously. When we talk about breathing, the common understanding is that one cannot breathe out until one has breathed in, and vice versa. The obvious conclusion seems to be that breathing out is nothing without first breathing in; it is purposeless, irrational, and impossible. But it can’t be impossible; we know that people can do it.

This paradox of functions is what I feel we all experience to some degree when we delve deeply enough into matters of truth and faith. Even the most reasonable man must at some point accept that his reliance on logic requires him to have faith that his methods are sound, just as the man who lives his life intuitively must somehow believe his methods are the most logical way of approaching the truth. Each man puts faith in logic, finds logic in faith – breathes in and out, out and in.

Humans can’t have one without the other, or, perhaps more accurately, must be able to have both at once. We must be able to perform circular believing all the time – the cycle must be playing in the background of our thoughts constantly. Logic, faith, logic, faith. The cycle doesn’t stop – it would be disastrous if it did. And when we think about it, circular breathing comes just as naturally and just as unconsciously. In truth, our bodies don’t alternate inhalation with exhalation; only our lungs do. In all other tissues, in all other cells in our bodies, respiration is a constant, endless, beginningless cycle. Oxygen flows in as carbon dioxide flows out. Fuel, waste, fuel, waste. Only on the surface does it appear otherwise. We only get the idea that breathing is strictly a two-step operation because the visible part of the process, the rising and falling of the chest and the rushing in and out of air, suggests it. Deeper investigation shows us otherwise.

On the surface, circular believing appears hypocritical. We think, logic only works in the absence of blind faith; that trust is believing in something that cannot be proven, and anyone who attempts to incorporate both concepts into his or her beliefs must not have thought everything out very carefully. But subconsciously, that cycle runs in the minds of even the most partisan philosophers – logic, faith, logic, faith. It’s unavoidable; it’s omnipresent; it’s as natural and as normal and as basic as breathing.