“I don’t care what you believe in, just believe in it.” Shepherd Book tells Malcolm Reynolds with his last breath in the sci-fi classic, Serenity.
That seems an odd way to start a blog post for a Catholic Campus Ministry, especially for the Director for that ministry, and yet I find myself often thinking about that statement when I am dealing with students on campus. It matches well with another statement from the same movie; “When I talk about belief, why do you always assume I’m talking about God?”
Don’t get me wrong, I love talking about God and especially answering questions regarding the nature of God, Reality, and the Church, but a lot of times people aren’t there yet. They’re not ready to ask such questions because they are struggling against something deeper: hopelessness. They mask it well, through cynicism, sarcasm, and apathy, but it’s there. It’s there sucking away dreams and will, leaving stale inertia in its place. Things aren’t too bad, they could be better, but if I try to accomplish something and fail people might laugh at me. Worse, they will say they knew it would never succeed. If they knew it would never succeed, but I didn’t, doesn’t that also make me kind of stupid? I not only failed, but it was foolish to try. I could avoid all that by simply not trying, or not giving all of myself to an endeavour. Then, not only do I not fail, but I’m on the winning side – if someone else fails I can join the chorus of “I-told-you-so’s”, but if they succeed I can claim I supported them all along. But it’s not me risking myself for what might be.
A society that no longer supports dreams of the stars and the horizon is a society that has stopped valuing dreaming, dreamers, hope, and belief.
Then why belief? Because belief is the bulwark against hopelessness. I believe, really believe, and so I can’t but try because the thing is worthy to try. I believe a thing is important in itself, not because someone else has told me it is important, but because I feel it and know it within myself. I believe, and hang on desperately to that belief because it is a sliver of a larger dream that seeks to take flight. I believe that God loves me, even small me, and if God can love even me then anybody can be loved. If everyone is loved, then I must do my absolute best to support the inherent dignity and value of every human being, regardless of who they are, from birth to natural death and seek to build a world were everyone can realize that about themselves.
I believe, and so I dream. I dream – a fragile, gossamer thing – and so I cannot be cynical or dismissive of another’s dream, even if I disagree, as I know how fragile dreams are. I believe, and so I hope in something better. As Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel once noted; “The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference.” Believe, and follow that belief through to the end, and you will find love there, love for others, and Love calling your name.