Acts of Faith
Some habits are hard to break. Smoking. Drinking. Drugs.
Some habits, once broken, are hard to pick up again. Voting. Going to church on Sunday. Reading a daily newspaper.
The drunks living in precarious sobriety say of their habit, "you pick it up where you put it down," meaning that, no matter how many years sober, one shot of Wild Turkey will put you back into the hell you left for your first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.
I'm pondering the nature of habit because I've just endured an election in my Massachusetts city. Turnout? Twenty four percent. The preliminary was worse. Twelve percent.
I'd bet everything I own that, on the day of that election, more people watched porn online than went to vote.
My parents were unremarkable, working-class people. We moved quite a bit when I was young, and when we got to the new place, my parents found out which parish we were in as naturally as they found the nearest grocery store. My father called to get the newspaper delivered the way he called to get the electricity turned on in the new apartment. The polling place they found by reading the newspaper.
What strikes me about the habits of voting, going to church and reading a daily newspaper is that all three of them are acts of faith.
To vote, you have to believe that voting does some good. To go to church, you have to believe there is a god. To read a daily newspaper, you have to believe it tells the truth.
If you believe that sitting at home smoking weed and watching a "Friends" rerun accomplishes as much as voting, you'll choose the weed and "Friends," if only because you won't have to leave the house. If you believe religion exists only to fool people into making contributions, you'll stay home and drink coffee on Sunday morning. If you believe the newspaper is lying, you'll seek out an internet dispenser of "news" whose stories always seem to confirm your worst fears.
You will do all those things alone because being alone is a symptom of disbelief. If you can't trust people, why engage in any group activity?