From Bayo Akomolafe. Re-posted from social media (12/5/2020).
Yesterday, during an interview I quite enjoyed, the host asked me if I considered myself a man of faith. “Of course, I am a man of faith!” I responded. And then I proceeded to offer a reframed and embodied notion of faith that wasn’t necessarily tethered to bearded divinities and religious monocultures. What might faith look like if humans weren’t the unit of analysis? If it didn’t terminate at belief systems or cognitive leaps? A posthumanist faith?
Faith is the fidelity of entanglements. Faith exceeds the doctrines and the human-centric ways we – forced by the imperatives of institutions – have come to see them. It is how bodies come to meet other bodies, how bodies use or borrow other bodies and senses to respond to the creative challenges of a multidimensional reality that is never still – or how those bodies in excess of each other create new edges and experiment with new questions.
You might even think of faith as symbiosis or sympoiesis: faith is the relationship between the Egyptian plover bird and the crocodile, the wasp and the orchid, microbial civilizations in our guts and the memories we process. The water buffalo is the kasaya of the oxpecker; the ostrich is the yarmulke of the zebra. Faith means that bodies need bodies in order to thrive and in order to die well. It is coalitional, alliance-making, world-shaping, co-creative work. One does not have faith as such: we live and breathe and die in faith.
Faith does not terminate at binary truth statements or axioms. To make faith a subject of an ultimate truth, by which its value can be estimated, is to occlude the reality-forming work of faith. The question isn’t whether my faith is “true” or not – or whether the strangers outside are temples have the “right” faith. What’s more urgent invites us into a consideration of what an ecosystem of faith is doing – what specific species of yearning are producing, what imaginal possibilities are proliferated and from what soil, what archetypes are being played with, and how bodies are assuming and losing shape. Faith is a fragile network of doings-together, a strategy of co-inquiry, experiments of approach where arrival is impossible.
In this sense, no “one” is reducible to the discernible contents of their faith practices or expressed beliefs and rituals. There’s always something more, something excessive, something molecularly transgressive that upsets the firm rhetoric of faith-as-declaration. It is like removing a clean cobblestone and finding beneath it slimy worlds and critters unmentionable, doing their own business.
Faith is therefore revolutionary and has counter-imperial potentials. When we come to touch our faith, we come into an adventurous/expansive relationship with the bodies that are assembled in excess of ours. We touch the limbs of faith by listening to the materials, the memories, the furniture, the textures that are the condition of our becoming-with-the-world. In touching, we attune ourselves to how strange and alien we are, how composite our bodies are, how indebted we are, and how fugitive we are from systems of neat classification.
Faith is making sanctuary.
“But if you were asked about believing in God?”
“God”, I responded, “is always yet-to-come.”
One thought on “On Faith”
“faith as symbiosis or sympoiesis” …I will be thinking on that phrase for a very long time. Thank you for offering such a generative reframing.