Jan. 7, 2014. White whales and their trainers present a show for visitors at Harbin Pole Aquarium in Harbin, China. Image Source: Lintao Zhang—Getty Images via Time.
For many today, this is a secular age. Yet everywhere, we base our actions on belief. Popular investment in the system depends on faith. Every time you get on an airplane, you are participating in a culture of belief; you are trusting the credentials, training and abilities of the pilot and co-pilot; the company which hired them and which maintains the airplane; and the company which built the machine in the first place. You have to believe that they will collectively see you through to the arrivals gate at the other end of your journey. You are placing your life in their hands for a few precious hours. To travel by air, you have to believe you will survive.
Faith transmits an individual's power into the system. On the basis of belief, we offer our ability to work, think and function - the whole span of a personal lifetime - to every facet of larger society. Institutions and governments demand the same trust as an airline, but extend the period of trust across decades. In exchange for accepting these structures, as well as cultural and sub-cultural products marketed as mass and niche norms, we develop relationships and communities which support us. We participate in economies which should support us. The political, economic, social, institutional, business and governmental systems are worth as much faith as we give them. And if we stop believing in them, their power dwindles down, sometimes to nothing, and migrates elsewhere.