It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me the most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.
There is a certain kind of torment that becomes what I would call faith. I don’t know if James Baldwin would have used that word, faith, but he describes it well for me. Baldwin, an American novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and what I would call social prophet, addressed the intricacies of racial, sexual, and class distinctions in Western societies. He was born and died in the 20th century (for more on the basics of his life, look him up on Wikipedia). The kind of torment that leads to faith are those very questions that take us to our core and then, once in the depths of who we are, realize that our very souls (deep core) join us, as Baldwin says, to all the people who are or have ever lived.
Those places where we realize that we do nothing singularly, become nothing all by ourselves, take no actions that do not come with responsibilities and consequences for all those within our reach are what I want to call true human faith. This is not the faith of religious rules or dogma. This is not the faith that someone has handed on to us or that we can even read in a book (though the influence of others and their writings may have a hand in this kind of faith). This kind of faith emerges from within us, always, as a kind of clarity about uncertain things. This kind of faith, while it cannot be proved as a certainty, provides us with enough light and other qualities that allow us to walk in a new direction in a new way.
I have shared with many in my circles of the various experiences I had as a child, teenager and into my early adult years around race and my own whiteness in a time and in a country which made it clear to me that I enjoyed a life not available to people of color AND that my privileged status required things to remain the same. Those experiences created waves of torment for me, some of which continue to this day. Those experiences, their insights, the feelings that come with them are in my soul bells that cannot be unrung. What has emerged in me is way of seeing my life and the lives of all others around me differently, as connecting me with all other people who live and who have ever lived.
As this is not a perfect or perfected faith in me, I suspect that I will continue to search for the best ways to live this kind of faith until my last day.