This is not the jungle, and yet it feels like it sometimes.

In a society, we try to assign some meaning–try to assign some blame, even–for things we can’t understand. Faith, for some, helps. It’s these things that make the faithless wish they were the praying kind. Because, without faith and the ability to forgive, there is only anger. And in anger there is little but pain.

Anger is blinding. It feeds irrationality. If we cling to some last shred of reason, we might be able to hold on. The problem is, on the back side of reason, when we come out on the other side, we’re left hollow. We never had the faith. We’ve given up on the anger. We’ve teetered on the edge of insanity and acted without rational thought. We’ve managed to survive in spite of ourselves. And we’re left in the same jungle, surrounded by the same animals, and left wondering how we let so much time pass without finding a way to fix it all.

So, how do we survive? Again, the faithful can chalk it up to a master plan and a deity’s will. Those on Faithless Street don’t have a mailman. They don’t get word that it’s all going to be okay. So, they make up their own little stories. Stories like you read here, I guess.

It’s days like the one we just watched that get me searching. Not for faith, necessarily, but cause I have my own little brand of it (one that, last I heard, is not in the playbook of Pat Robertson, Pope Benedict, Gary Bauer, or Tom Cruise). I just search for something. I’ve managed to get by without blaming anyone except the one person responsible. I’ve managed to control my anger without getting too numb. It sounds cliche, and I sound like a broken record, but I got by through making my kid laugh.

Best medicine? Some say, I guess. It’s a salve, I think. I don’t like zoos (I actually once broke up with a girl because she wanted me to go to the zoo and Christmas mass within six months of each other), but my kid loves the animals. So, I go. It’s easy to see how some of the animals get through it. Some are just too dumb to get it. The goats at the exit petting zoo are pretty good examples.

I get goaty sometimes. It’s easier that way. I eat the food people shove at me. I wander around in my pen and take the petting when I can get it.

But, I think the thinking folks among us know that if we’re goats, we’re little more than sheep. We’ll end up getting led to the milking pen or the shearing shed. We’ll flock and baa and not offer much in the way of the jungle’s version of progress. In short, we’re civil in our inaction.

No, we’re not goats. We have will. We have reason. Or, at least we like to think we do.

And so we recognize that we’re in the jungle and it appears to be the only jungle we have. And that’s what makes our eyes sad. When people look at us and say, “Dance, monkey,” we can choose not to. However, that doesn’t change the fact we’re pretty much trapped.

It would be nice if there was a solid wrap to all this. It would be nice if I could tell you there is way to survive the jungle without deluding yourself into believing it’s all going to be okay. If I could do that, Tom Cruise might give me a job.

I can’t do that. It may seem like I’m beating the obvious drum a little hard, but we’re living in a time I don’t think any of us expected 15 years ago. I finally admitted to myself today that it’s got me a little scared. It’s not the madman that turns an idyllic community into his personal shooting range. It’s everything. I don’t have to list it for you. If you’re reading this, you’re likely thinking about the same things.

What do we do, folks? Do we get goaty? Do we accept that our eyes are growing as sad as the monkey’s? Or do we do something else?

Tell me. Because this jungle is getting deeper and darker every time I look up.

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Brad Willis

Brad Willis is a writer based in Greenville, South Carolina. Willis spent a decade as an award-winning broadcast journalist. He has worked as a freelance writer, columnist, and professional blogger since 2005. He has also served as a commentator and guest on a wide variety of television, radio, and internet shows.

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2 Responses

  1. Since I know you profess to be the kind who allows room for those who think differently than you, I will go ahead with my comment.

    Yep. It’s getting more and more intense, isn’t it? But it’s nothing that hasn’t already been written. Those of us with faith believe in the prophecy of the Bible…my own translation is that basically the world is going to hell in a handbasket. It’s been prophesied, and we are simply watching the prophecies come to pass. I don’t know how the faithless survive the day to day life or any hope of a bright future while realizing more and more with the passing of time that there is no hope in this world. In the terms of our human capacity, it’s too big to get better and it’s too big to be “fixed. It’s beyond us.

    What we do is not find ourselves surprised by that which has already been written. What we do is realize that this world will not last; if left to our own, we will destroy ourselves with our depravity. What we do is believe there is more than this, and we find the faith we were created to have. The faith that lifts us above this world that is indeed going to hell in a handbasket. The faith that reassures us that we don’t have to go to hell with it. The faith that gives us hope. Without faith it is hopeless, and without hope we are all susceptible to packing some heat and shooting the place up, or at least shooting ourselves up.

    So, call me a Bible Thumper if you want, but those with faith don’t question what to “do.” We already know. And it’s not an exclusive club, so you can join if you want.

  2. I believe in hanging curve balls, good scotch, opening your Christmas gifts Christmas morning versus Christmas Eve, and that one day I’ll have Otis reporting that I have in fact just busted from the WSOP.

    Why do you need to believe in Jesus/God/Allah/Budda to “have faith”? No, I’m not atheist.

    To answer above commentor, you don’t “need faith”, just enjoying life should be enough. How you go about your life should be your faith, not some book’s teaching. If you need guidance or floorplan sure the bible is decent but don’t make it control your life’s direction.

    Otherwise you become no better then those monkeys and goats.

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