August 9, 2019

Faithing

At the Byron Writer’s Festival last weekend, First National Byron Principal and founder of the festival Chris Hanley OAM, sat in conversation with Rev. Tim Costello; The former Mayor of St Kilda and CEO of World Vision. Costello refers to himself as ‘Australia’s Favourite Activist’ in a tone that carries the perfect balance of gravity and good old-fashioned Australian irony and humility.

The conversation between the two men carried out on stage for around an hour, began and continued to cycle back to the concept of “Faithing”, which will be a new word to most of us.

“Faithing”, as Costello put it, is about an active and curious faith above a blind or passive surrender. Faith, but as a verb. In a non-denominational and even non-theistic way, Costello defined “Faithing” as ‘the spiritual journey of facing what’s “in” me and trying to live that outwardly.’

“Faithing”, as a concept then truly contemplates that the social dimension of belief – the needs and position of our fellow man. -Our fellow (wo)man is to be the beneficiaries of what we believe about ourselves. And the more I think about it – the more I think that is true.

Yet we must examine exactly what we are “Faithing” if we care about whether the people who surround us are the happy or the unfortunate beneficiaries of what is ‘in’ us.

In research, the concept is called ‘reflexivity’ and it is the process of examining one’s own feelings, reactions and motives to see how they influence what oneself does or thinks in a situation. It is meant to correctly balance what we bring to the world with what it within it.

That examination, and constant re-examination, of ourselves, is harder to do now and Costello raised some more points about social bonds and social comparison that might be hindering our ability to do “Faithing” well.

Social media gets a bad wrap from many people and I have never really understood the harm, but Costello talks about how the algorithmic impact of ‘like’ audiences and curated feeds that deliver to us what we ‘like’ has a very bad habit of putting us into ‘micro-chambers’ of people just like us.

It is a very useful tool when we are looking to target a particular segment of home buyers so that we can let them know about a property we are selling that they might “like”. It is a communication tool, like many in the past – but it is the segmentation, the tribalism, that sets it apart from other media.

When we are surrounded by people ‘just like us’ we lose the bond to a bigger narrative – and perhaps we miss the opportunity for some broad introspection that would help us to be better at “Faithing”. When we see and have the ability to compare ourselves “down” to those less fortunate, it is a lot easier to feel blessed than it is when social media is forcing us to compare “up” to the haves; or the have-mores. Trying to keep up with the Kardashians, is an addiction that has household debt levels at 189%, which regular readers might recall from our Ramen Noodle Edit a few weeks ago.

We are all inspired to do a little more “Faithing”. It emerged to me as the most simple, spiritual practice I have come across as well as being a sound foundation for other facets of life. Areas like customer service, parenting, community engagement, ordering coffee….what is ‘in’ me and how can I live that. Fundamentally, when you go deep and find what is ‘in’ us – it isn’t the stress, the chaos, the speed of life that makes us rush and snaps our connections with each other and drives us into hollow chambers. No, under that is I think how we all are meant to be, without the comparison to one another – there live hope and joy and all that visceral stuff that is ‘good’.

I’m going to try and do more “Faithing” this week.