I have been re-reading Chimamanda’s masterpiece, “Half of a Yellow Sun” and I came across a conversation between Olanna and Odenigbo (two of the main characters) which made me think about how humans view faith. Part of this conversation goes:
” ‘Ugwu said your mother went to a dibia,’ [Olanna] said.
‘Ugwu thinks all this happened because your mother went to a dibia and his medicine charmed you into sleeping with Amala.’
Odenigbo was silent for a moment. ‘I suppose it’s the only way he can make sense of it.’
‘The medicine should have produced the desired boy, shouldn’t it?’ she said. ‘It is all so irrational.’
‘No more irrational than belief in a Christian God you cannot see.’
She was used to his gentle jibes about her social-service faith and she would have responded to say that she was not even sure she believed in a Christian God that could not be seen. But now, with a helpless human being lying in the cot, one so dependent on others that her very existence had to be proof of a higher goodness, things had changed.
‘I do believe,’ she said. ‘I believe in a good God.’
‘I don’t believe in any gods at all.’
‘I know. You don’t believe in anything.’
‘Love,’ he said, looking at her. ‘I believe in love.’
She did not mean to laugh, but the laughter came out anyway. She wanted to say that love, too, was irrational. “
Every time I have come across this passage, I have read it a couple of times because it always makes me question the rationality of the things I believe in. Moreover, it makes me wonder whether it is possible to believe in things that are never irrational.
We generally believe in things that make us feel good, or that offer a promise of greatness, be it nature, our ancestors (the gods), God or even love. I think most people grow up to realise that there is definitely something greater than us within and without us, and I’m willing to risk arguing that it is those forces that give us the comfort of being able to attempt to explain the world when it does not make sense; it is those forces that sway us from being rational beings.
So can belief be rational? In my opinion, as long as you believe in something that you feel or something that’s ‘greater’ than you, than most certainly not.
(This post is also just an excuse to show my deep admiration for Adichie’s writing 🙂 )