Now that the nights are getting warmer, I sleep with my bedroom window open. In the last few days the sound of a bird chirping and singing has crept into my consciousness in the early hours. It was still dark at five o’clock this morning, the moon hanging low near the horizon, when its song began.
I lay in bed and listened, one part of me wanting to return to the amnesia of sleep, the other part ready, like the bird, for the new day. Then I remembered a quote by Rabindranath Tagore: “Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark.”
That, in turn, reminded me of the belief of the Australian aborigines that mankind sang the world into existence. How beautiful an image that is. All of creation, voices raised in song, the ringing vibration of which shakes the ethers into atoms and molecules until they jell into the incredible lattice-like formations of mass and space and energy we call life.
My thoughts return to the bird as its voice is joined by another and for a while the two participate in an oratory and response, echoing each other’s hymn to dawn while the moon silently slips below the horizon and a light pearl gray enters the sky. For a few seconds, in the background, they are joined by the honking of flying geese and the dim roar of a jet headed into the rose-tinted east.
While I make coffee I consider again Tagore and his definition of faith, comparing it to Hebrews 11:1. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Faith belongs to that empty space in which all that is hangs suspended waiting for the Word to make it real.
What do I have faith in, I wonder. Faith is more than belief because beliefs are decisions of the mind and can change. In what do I have an unshakeable assurance? I must confess that like the bird, I always expect the sun to come up each morning, for every day I have been alive it has happened without exception. So there must be something in faith that is eternal which has nothing unexpected or unpredictable as its condition.
In fact, dawn is a constant feature of my existence which then leads me to wonder if dawn will still occur when I am gone. Is there dawn in heaven – or whatever that state might be called after death; or, is dawn a perpetual condition of this higher consciousness? Is that the much touted light at the end of the tunnel, the ever-spring of existence?
Faith abides in the Eternal, perhaps finds its origin there. When we lose faith, do we not also lose eternity? If we stop singing before the sun comes up, will the day dawn? Is the difference between faith and expectation the certainty of outcome? Does the bird ever sing an uncertain song?
Confidence: con fides – with faith. Faith, fidelity, truth. What do we really have faith in? What do we trust? We would like to think that there are a few select people we can trust, who are faithful. But what we are expect when we trust is that someone will put our interest before their own – and that doesn’t happen very often.
But trust is the bedrock of brotherhood and really, to my mind, the core of any group, from the family to the community to the country. What does serving in the armed forces really teach? The courage to be faithful to the unseen and to each other.
I consider who I trust and then consider if I even trust myself? What is unchanging within me? What is it that I can rely upon? Is there some deep root of truth within that is as certain in its song as Tagore’s bird? Today I will reflect on faith and discover what shores this current will lead me to. It is morning. What shall we sing into existence today?
Rabindranath Tagore was a polymath who reshaped the literature and music of his native Bengal. He was the first non-European to with the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913.