Faithful bafflement

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Faithful bafflement is a ploy for maintaining the eternalist stance, closely related to wistful certainty. It admits a further quantum of doubt. It may feel anguished, rather than wistful:

  • I don’t know what I’m supposed to do!
  • I don’t know what it all means!
  • How can this have happened!

It is faithful, because you have not yet let go of eternalism. But where wistful certainty is sure there is some answer (though it is not visible), faithful bafflement starts to suspect there is no answer (though eternalism must somehow be correct anyway).

Like wistful certainty, faithful bafflement can lead to paralysis.

As with wistful certainty, the antidote is to use doubt as an opening. Existential crises force spiritual questions; they can lead you into into pathological confusion, but they can also clarify meaningness and lead into the complete stance.

One tactic is to turn around the expression of bafflement, and to personalize it.

If you are upset about a moral choice and exclaim “I don’t know what I am supposed to do!”, ask yourself: “supposed by whom?”

This tactic works even for staunch atheists. We all have at the back of our minds a shadowy authority figure by whom we will be judged. It takes more than a current membership card in the Council for Secular Humanism to dispel that bogeyman. In calm and rational times he hides from the light of rationality, but in dark and troubled moments we feel his boney hand on our shoulder.

Instead of “I don’t know what it all means!” ask: “what does this mean to me? What does it mean to my family or community?”

Rather than trying to answer “How can this have happened!” in terms of the Cosmic Plan, you can look for a practical answer. And you can also remind yourself that many things happen for no reason at all.