Monday, September 11, 2006

When In Doubt...

I walked by a shop in Venice and was lured by this sign that read: “When in doubt, take a bath.”

The statement was attributed to the American actor, Mae West.

I thought that’s a deep reflection in a shop called Lush that sells cosmetics supposedly to “transfer the bath from a merely functional occupation into an art form.”

I have heard the prescription to ‘take a cold shower’ given to douse certain ailments but to take a bath is a novel suggestion for dealing with one’s doubts.

I haven’t been able to track down the context of Mae West’s quotation but I suspect her original reference didn’t have the depth that I might be attributing to it.

I was brought up to regard doubting as bad and there were many hymns and sermons that reinforced this viewpoint. Over the years I have been helped to see doubt as something positive and normal, by such authors as Os Guinness Doubt: Faith in Two Minds and now republished as God in the Dark, my friend Frank Rees in Wrestling with Doubt and Frederick Buechner in Wishful Thinking.

Doubt is not the same as unbelief. It is a midway point between belief/faith and unbelief. Doubt is like a coin flicked in the air—heads or tails? It is a state of unknowing in which we think, brood, cogitate and pray in the hope that we will come to some resolution.

I love Buechner's discussion of faith and doubt: “If you don’t have any doubts you are either kidding yourself or asleep. Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it alive and moving.”

Mae West may have been trying to dissolve her doubts. Doubts are best addressed by viewing them honestly, accepting them gratefully and wrestling with them patiently.

Doubts are good. Don’t try to drown your doubts. Save water. Doubts are a sign that we are alive and growing.

Geoff Pound

Image: ‘When in doubt, take a bath.’