Thursday, 27 November 2014

What is faith?

A great film that I would recommend people to see called ‘Kon-Tiki.’ This is a film based on a true story about a famous Norwegian explorer and anthropologist called Thor Heyerdahl that had led the Kon–Tiki expedition in 1947. An entire museum in Oslo that I once visited is dedicated to this story which I will outline as follows. Heyerdahl spent much of his time in Polynesia and was convinced that there was migration between South American natives into Polynesia around 1000 to 1500 AD, way before European settlers. He had figured out this theory based on drawings he had discovered whereby concluding that people must have migrated with the trade winds and currents on wooded rafts with basic sails.

The explorer was determined to prove his theory and in doing so he wanted to cross the Pacific on his very own wooded raft made from basic material such as balsa wood and other basic equipment similar to those used in that previous time. He led the expedition together with a small voluntary and resilient crew, where they had set off from Peru. According to their nautical calculations the winds and current would change at a certain point out in the middle of the pacific to bring them on target to the Tuamotu Islands in French Polynesia.

Once out in the middle of the ocean it seemed apparent that the winds would not change. Heyerdahl’s crew’s morale was quickly diminished and hope was rapidly dissipating. As one member of the group had shouted out in distress to their leader ‘We don’t have your faith!’ It seemed that they would all perish and drown in the middle of the ocean. Yet the leader had never doubted his inner belief let alone his inner strength. He was so certain his theory was true, in that they would not perish and that the tide would eventually turn bringing them in the direction where they wanted.

Several days after this hair-raising situation, the current had changed. Suddenly the winds had led them into the right direction. All hope was restored and morale was high. Eventually after 101 days out at sea, the group had made it to Polynesia.

This is a remarkable story of human endeavour given the great adversity that this expedition was up against. One can draw whatever parallels from this story in our lives and even to nature. It is a story of remarkable leadership of a man who never abandoned what he believed in. It might be, for example that the winds and the current did not have to change and yet they did. Some might call this luck. For me this an example of the simplicity of faith.

Today in Europe many of our businesses and in particular our banks and political leaders struggle to define a coherent path, a higher purpose or at least do not adhere to their own vision. This is where things start to go wrong, adding to our lack of confidence and of a self-belief that is being eroded day by day. For example some might believe that economic growth is our sole destination, whereas is it not that growth is the positive result once we know where we are heading? Moreover if we do not know our destination, how is it that the tide is able to turn?

Our current economic system confirms that many of us out there feel; that we are in fact out in the middle of the ocean having no idea where we are heading, with others thinking yes we may as well jump ship, sink or perish whilst dark clouds are upon us. Some may talk the talk yet have no idea how to walk the plank ..er I mean walk the walk. Others make short term decisions putting plasters wherever there is a leak in our balsa wood or a rip in our sails hoping things may get better.

The Norwegian explorer knew his destination. It was simply a question how to get there, even in the face of adversity by putting his crew at risk then bringing them to hope and safety, and yet I am certain our leaders can learn that to get from A to B requires a coherent vision, a certain resilience, and above all, belief, to allow us to be consistent to that vision. We must know what ‘B’ is and then when knowing our destination we can rely on such great people for the tide to turn. And yet my undeniable optimism is that there are many more men or women out there not necessarily at the top of the pile that exist that can make that difference that understand that we must work together, understand in what direction we are heading, and knowingly how to reach it; Men and women of extraordinary coolness, talent, vision and most of all of faith.

Be bold in the face of adversity and humble in triumph

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