Jimmy’s Blind Faith

I recall that while I was in Junior High (in Lincoln, NE)  I had a Mormon cousin who very firmly believed that when you weren’t looking at objects, they ceased to exist. Then when you looked back at them, they’d pop right into existence again.
I was simultainiously both grippingly fascinated and frustrated by my cousin’s belief.
I “explored” his belief with him in the only way natural to me: by use of Reason and Experimentation. Which is to say, I did everything I could think of to disprove and shake it. I was amazed by my cousin’s sheer unwillingness to accept Pure Reason as superior over his seemingly bizarre “blind” Belief.

Our little scene played out like this:
q: so you believe that this chair is here while I am looking at it, but dissappears from Real Existence the moment I look away from it and can no longer directly see it?
c: Yes.
q: but, I can turn my back to it, so I’m not seeing it, and then walk backwards to sit down in it. I can’t see it, but I can still sit down in it — therefore it _Must_ still exist.
c: No. You can sit down in it, because your mind is *convinced* that it’s still there, so it’s reacting to it — to what you really believe in.
q: So … if *you* walk backwards in line to where the chair is, then you won’t run into it because you can’t see it and therefore it won’t exist to you?
c: maybe. ..I believe so.
q: try it.
[my cousin turns around and walks backwards until he stumbles over the “invisible/non-existant” chair and falls down] [I don’t laugh, amazingly, but simply look at him quizzicly and wait for his reply to my demonstration]
c: the memory of the chair being in that place is still in my brain, so I’m not able to fully recognize it as not there — but it’s really not.
q: but *I* can see it …doesn’t that count? Is that enough to bring it into existance?
[I was not so much interested in disproving his belief and so changing his mind, as exploring his ability to believe this thing in the face of all contrary evidence. Yes, as an adolescent.]
c: I guess that brings it into existance for *you*, but I don’t think that necessarily means it has to exist for *me*.
q: so Reality is different for both of us?
c: sure.
q: OK. so what if you close your eyes, and then I *move* the chair, and you walk around … would you run into the chair then?
c: maybe, maybe not.
q: what do you mean? you wouldn’t know where it is, so it’s not in your memory, and you can’t see it, so it doesn’t exist … ?
[my cousin just looks at my non-commitaly]
q: let’s try it. close your eyes.
[my cousin closes his eyes and I move the chair as quietly as possible, then tell him to walk around with his eyes closed. He does, and quickly stumbles over the “invisible/non-existant” chair. This time I grin at him with some victory, he laughs and I laugh, I wait for his reply to this `win’]
q: so how come you ran into it, even when you didn’t know where it was, and couldn’t see it?
c: my brain’s memory knows it’s still somewhere in the room, so I was _expecting_ to run into it, and therefore did somewhere.
[I experience momentary frustration]
q: but you ran into it in just the same spot as I had actually *placed* it, and not some random place…?
c: *shrug* I guess I heard you put it somewhere there, even though I don’t remember hearing you do it. Some part of me must have heard it.
[long moment of thoughtful silence passes between us]
c: *shrugs again* it’s just what I believe. YOU don’t have to.
[yet undeterred…]
q: so …wait, let’s take this from a different perspective. If I close my eyes and firmly believe that there’s a chair where there *isn’t*, that I can see right now, and I walk forward with my eyes still closed… then I will run into it, even though it’s not there? I mean … as I can see it right now?
c: yes.
[This thought seemed altogether exciting to me. I really liked this idea. Essentially, believing things into existance so firmly that your reality actually interacts with them]
q: Ok, I’ll try it, I think there’s a chair in front of me  ..ok?
c: NO, you must _believe_ there’s a chair in front of you…
[I nod, then close my eyes and quite inspired by the possibilities of this philosophy, push every ounce of myself toward the belief that there really is a very cool looking chair right in front of me. I walk forward, but do not run into the “invisible/non-existent” chair. I open my eyes and look at my cousin with dissappointment. As much as I was having fun argueing his religion, I was hoping to crash into the chair because that would be *Really* cool.]
c: *shrugs* Your belief isn’t strong enough yet, sorry. I guess, because we’re talking about it, your mind is distracted by the doubt that the chair might not actually be there.
[another long thoughtful silence passes between us]
[not quite deterred, but shaken]
q: So let’s try something else. I’ll close my eyes and you move SOMETHING, _anything_ in the room into my path, and since I won’t know what it is, and can’t remember everything in this room, I won’t run into it because my mind won’t be able to imagine it there. Right?
c: but you’ll hear me place something in your path.
q: Ok, so take off your shirt and blindfold me with it, then I’ll plug my ears … ok?
[my cousin agrees, blindfolds me with his t-shirt, I plug my ears and he moves something in the room to a place I’ll step on it if I move around. He nudges me to walk around, I walk around blindfolded, and a few moments later fall on my ass tripping over an “invisible/non-existant” Tonka toy truck. I laugh, my cousin laughs, eventually I look at him quizzically again and he just shrugs]
c: you were expecting it.
q: but isn’t this the thing you moved? How would I know to trip over the same object you actually happened to move?
c: *shrug* I don’t know. I guess you’re psychic …are you?
q:  uh…NO. You still believe the wall behind me doesn’t exist?
c: Yes.
[I make one last effort and walk backward until I slam into the “invisible/non-existant” wall. I look at my cousin and smile. He just smiles back.}
q: what about blind people? There is no Reality for them? because there are no objects in it. . . ?
c: *shrugs yet again* I guess their mind has to create stuff in its path so they can function.
[I look at him baffled but still fascinated]
c: You don’t have to believe. I just do. I’m Mormon.


My Mormon cousins used their Mormon-ness as a device to believe in, as far as I could tell, just about anything. I never knew if this was something particular to Mormonism, or just my weird cousins. I guess I still don’t. The only other Mormons I ever knew of knowing, were in my childhood in Phoenix and they were always very Secretive about their beliefs. This, of course, made them instant sources of fascination to us neighborhood kids, and instant sources of disgust to the neighborhood adults. My parents didn’t seem to know what it was “the Mormons” [rarely called by their names at first] believed in, but were sure it was something very weird. The weirder seeming and the more secretive — the more interesting to us kids. The Mormons on our cul de sac were very popular. *grin*

Back then, I was thinking that my cousins were very interesting, but quite the weirdo’s. Middle 1980’s.
Now I’m thinking, I guess I have just as strong of a belief in things that I guess are not proven in other people’s minds. Namely, in experience, reason, and science. The experiences in my mind, and in my life, led me to belief in what I can find by reason or experience, and to some degree, in things I’m told by “subject authorities” (i.e., I don’t have to know exactly how the light switch works to believe that they know and are right about it). I guess my cousins’ experiences in mind and life led him to seek belief in things his direct experience could not prove. Two different developing minds, both responding to different, but dark, life experiences. . . in two “opposite” ways. Such strange creatures are we.

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2 Responses to “Jimmy’s Blind Faith”

  1. How old was Jimmy at the time? I’m wondering if he may have misunderstood something he was told in Sunday school or something, and that made him think that Mormonism and existentialism were related.

  2. gypsygies Says:

    He was my age, in Junior High. I thought it was interesting that he, well all my cousins, used their Mormonism as their excuse to be believe in anything. They believe in Alien Abductions, Ghosts, Existentialism…everything. Even when totally not related to the religion (although I still wouldn’t know, I know nothing whatsoever of Mormonism, but I am just guessing that it has nothing to do with these things).

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