The Flight of the Philistine
Copyright 1993 by Release Magazine, reproduced with permission
It was sometime near the end of the twentieth century, somewhere between England and France on a ferry loaded with bleary-eyed tourists and weary looking locals, sometime in the morning - a morning that had not distinguished itself with any kind of sunrise, one that was just kind of colorless and undark.
It was near the end of that cursed Age of Enlightenment, when the supreme God of Reason had puttered out and the court of the world was cluttered with computer clowns and information peddlers, where ideas passed hands like a currency that was not backed by gold. It was where and when I met her and she was pretty and mildly likeable and this was a conversation. And although her thoughts were vague, she voiced them with something that sounded like conviction.
She said, "I don't believe in war. I can't imagine anything that would make someone want to fight another human being, let alone kill one. I don't believe in war and if everyone wouldn't believe in it, then we could all be at peace."
Of course, you can never be sure what someone means when they talk about peace or belief or most anything else, but I wasn't too sold on the idea that disbelief in war would bring about peace. I felt kind of embarrassed - kind of Philistine. I could easily imagine wanting to fight another human being. I could imagine hunger and I could imagine (or, more honestly, I could remember) greed. I could imagine rage over injustice and I could imagine honest (even if mistaken) fear. I could imagine a woman two men would wrangle over. I'd like to be the sort of man two women might quarrel over. I can imagine, remember and even presently see a lot of things that would make someone want to fight another person. And worse, I suspect that a world emptied of these things would be no more peaceful - it would just be more dead.
The person who doesn't believe in gravity is no more apt to fly than the person who does believe in it. Chances are, the person who believes in gravity (who recognizes it, studies it, appreciates its power and properties and comes to terms with them) is more likely to discover the secret of flight than the person who denies the reality of weight. They will mount up with wings like eagles while the others sink into desperate, deliberate and useless denial. They both will dream but one will wake in flight and the other will crush himself in the comfort of sleep.
We walk by faith and not by sight - not because we are blind, but because faith gives us the courage to face our fears and puts those fears in a context that makes them less frightful. We walk by faith and not by sight because there are places to go that cannot be seen and the scope of our vision is too small for our strides. Faith is not a denial of facts - it is a broadening of focus. It does not deny the hardness of guitar strings, it plucks them into a sweetness of sound.
I don't know how that sets at the present - it probably sounds foolish - but I wish I could have said something like that (only more persuasive and even mildly brilliant) to that girl on the ferry that morning on the English Channel on this end of the Age of Enlightenment, so near to yet another century of war and longing for peace and faith and denial and gravity and flight. Maybe I'll meet her there, maybe you will. She's very pretty - brown hair and eyes and all. If you see her, tell her that the Philistine on the ferry is flying and at peace and that he hopes she is as well. Tell her, "we walk by faith and not by sight." We fly that way, too.