I have recently been reading Winnie the Pooh and, among other things, it is a wonderful account of everyday small mindedness. Pooh is the personification of greed. If the chance of getting "a little something" comes along he immediately becomes oblivious to everything else that is happening. His friend Eeyore is a self-pitying depressive, who, nonetheless, has moments of simple happiness. Rabbit is bossy and Owl is smug and each of the other characters has their particular variety of everyday delusion and the resulting conversations are highly amusing because they are a mirror of ourselves.
Perhaps when we read such literature we may be inspired toward some degree of personal reform. We can certainly attempt to develop good habits trying to let go of greed, hate and self-centedness. Self-centredness means self-pity, arrogance, favouring oneself above others, having a hidden agenda of self-benefit and so on. Hate includes resentment, harbouring a poor opinion of others, keeping a record of one's defeats and hurts. Greed includes jealousy, envy, over-indulgence and the like.
The trouble is, however, that most of this is outside of our personal control. If one says to oneself, OK, as from today I will be fully alive, it does not happen. We just do not have that much control. If we tell ourselves to love somebody, it does not work. Something else has to happen. Aliveness, love, trust - these things all creep up on us and are not in our personal gift or under our control. Either we do trust or we don't. So will-power isn't it.
Sometimes things happen that strengthen our faith. We survive a disaster. We encounter something or someone inspiring. We are grabbed by a noble cause. Other times, things happen that undermine our faith and lead us toward cynicism. The thing is, however, that faith is not manufactured. What we manufacture, almost by definition, is exactly what we do not have faith in. Real faith is something natural and to arrive at it we have to go back to being natural ourselves. This is easier said than done. In our modern complex, highly artificial social world, we are under constant pressure to be ingenuous in a million ways. Nonetheless, one cannot get through the day without trusting all manner of ordinary things. Generally we do not notice this kind of everyday faith because it is something taken for granted.
I do not think that there is any separation in principle between the little faith of everyday life and the great faith that we are concerned with when we talk about spirituality. Faith is an essential element in living and loving. In fact, life, love and faith are substantially over-lapping concepts. They are not identical and they are all essential to giving a nuanced account of what it is to be human, but the three are indispensable to a creative and meaningful existence and they do overlap to a great degree.
To love someone is, substantially, to have faith in that person and loving is itself a kind of faith because it is for nothing. If it is not for nothing then it is not real love. When we live with love we are most alive and when we come most alive we love everything and everybody.
Now the characters in A.A.Milne's stories all love Christopher Robin. He is a kind of God to the little animals. When things get too much for them they go and see him and he makes it all alright - though sometimes even he has to ask Rabbit for an opinion. So this faith that they all have in Christopher Robin is their saving grace. It gives them courage.
The word courage comes from the French coeur meaning heart. To fully live one's life, to live in faith, to live by love and to have courage are all approximately the same thing. They are to live a wholehearted life. They all involve going beyond ourselves and beyond what we know and they are therefore all of the nature of faith or prayer. Prayer is to say what is in one's heart and to say it into the void, not knowing what will come in the new moment of existence that is just on the point of being created.
So what can we do from our own side? I think one of the most useful things is to take stock and start to become conscious of the many instances of faith that already do exist in our lives. If we know what we really do trust then we know ourselves a lot better. Another important element is a sense of humour. It is very difficult to give up selfish habits unless we can laugh at ourselves and to cultivate this particular faculty, there is nothing better I can recommend than Pooh Bear and his friends.