It’s been a while. I was traveling the two weeks after R-dog moved on, and I spent the most of the next three weeks with my grandparents. Then, the next couple of weeks were spent catching up with work and finishing moving. I have basically been moving for a year now. It is nice to finally have some time. Unfortunately for me, having time on my hands often means overactively thinking about things….usually spiritual and philosophical things. And that’s not often good, because it often leads to a depressed state. Although I have made a lot of progress understanding various aspects of others’ spirituality and about various systems of spirituality and philosophy, I still haven’t found something that completely rings true for me. Buddhism is very close, except I guess I don’t really know about the rebirth stuff, which is an important piece of the puzzle.
Probably the closest I’ve come across is spiritual naturalism, which takes a scientific-based view of the world, is agnostic about claims that outside the realm of science and things that science hasn’t figured out, puts nature at the center of what is sacred, and draws its inspiration from various non-theistic and more naturalistic traditions like Buddhism, Taoism, Stoicism, and paganism. They put compassion at the center of their moral approach to living, and focus their spirituality on inner development and happiness. All in all, it really fits very well with my understanding and experience of the world.
However, there is still something missing…just can’t figure out what. Perhaps I want there to be something more than the natural world? Perhaps I want a diety or several that I can count on when things get bad. Perhaps I just want to part of something bigger. One thing I know is that I still have a hard time dealing with others that seem so sure about their spirituality. I’m pretty smart, so I think that I sometimes feel like if I can’t figure it out and I can’t find comfort, nobody else should be able to either. Intellectually I know that is a silly position to take, but emotionally it happens quite frequently.
For example, the American missionary doctor who contracted Ebola in Africa and was brought back to the U.S. and recovered thinks that God answered prayers and saved him, by working through the doctors and medicine. I immediately think, I agree that doctors using science saved you. But to me, adding God to that doesn’t improve the explanation at all — it is like saying that gravity is controlled by the Gravity Fairy. And because gravity always works we “know” that the Gravity Fairy is working in the world. And I then think that many of the people who are dying from this disease are also praying and being prayed for. Why aren’t they being saved? The missionary admitted that he didn’t know why he was saved and others weren’t. Oh yes, because “God works in mysterious ways”, or “we’re not meant to understand God’s plan”. In other words, people of strong faith often really no have no idea what they’re talking about half of the time but still have strong faith anyway.
I simply don’t get it, and therein lies the problem. I want faith but my scientific mind will not allow it. I’m just not built to accept it. But when I talk to people that have faith, I often feel like I’m missing out on something. Perhaps it is because faith is so pervasive in humans. Although the number of people that consider themselves “religious” has been declining, the vast majority of people still consider themselves “spiritual” in some sense, and most of those have some component of their spirituality that involves something paranormal or supernatural. I guess I feel left out. Sometimes I almost feel as if I’m not human, or if a major part of me is missing or broken.
I also feel rejected and abandoned at times. My proclivities make it very difficult to believe in a deity without some personal evidence. I’m not even asking for proof, I just want some personal reason or experience for faith other than the fact that I want it, which is simply not a good enough reason for me. I’m not going to believe because of a two-thousand year old book for which there is a lot of reason to think may be filled with inaccuracies. I want some personal experience, something that can’t be explained naturally and leads me towards the greater something…whatever that is. I have exhausted all possibilities using intellect, and there is simply no good way to choose. All systems of beliefs have their flaws, and, without faith, it is nearly impossible to really follow one. In addition, they are contradictory, so without something else, what is the basis for choosing, especially when (according to many faiths) the penalty for choosing incorrectly is so high?
I’m guess I’ll continue waiting…and continue suffering. The battle between wanting faith and the mind undermining it is at times the most negative force in my life. The concept of “God”, for all the good it has or hasn’t done for mankind, has been my worst enemy as long as I can remember. I’m trying to stay open to an experience that would change my mind, but sometimes I feel like the door has open long enough and the opportunity is closing off forever.
Also, sometimes I just wish people would keep their gdamn mouths shut and keep their religion to themselves. There have been a few times in my life that I was at peace, and those usually involve times when I was simply being, without thinking about spirituality and religion, etc. But it is almost impossible in America to go five minutes without seeing something that reminds me…”You’re one of those non-believer types. One of those (gasp) Atheists or Agnostics. Have fun burning in Hell you frickin heathen!”
This is point where I remind myself that Buddha taught thinking too much about things that you can’t really know the answers to will drive you crazy. Well, consider me driven. I’m going to go do some yoga and see if that doesn’t calm me down. And I will be kayaking at Lake Lanier and spending some time with my Dad and a couple of cold brewskies. Things will be better for a while, and there I will be right back here again (at least if history repeats itself).
I close with two songs from the early 90’s: All I Want by one of my favorite bands of all time, Toad the Wet Sprocket, which is about wanting to hold on to those moments of peace; and Something to Believe In by Poison which, to me, is simply about the suffering and confusion that we as humans inevitably experience and the yearning for something to make peace with it all. My favorite line from the former is, “Nothing’s so cold as closing the heart when all we need is to free the soul” and from the latter is “sometimes I wish I to God I didn’t know now the things that I didn’t know then”.
The place I’d like to live in more often is the climax of All I Want which may be about not beating yourself up (something I am excellent at): “And it won’t matter now – whatever happens will be – though the air breathes of all we’ll never be – it won’t trouble me.”
So there you have it, All I Want … Something to Believe In. Vidoes above, lyrics below. Enjoy. May all beings find peace, happiness, contentment, equanimity, and love.
“All I Want”
Nothing’s so loud
As hearing when we lie
The truth is not kind
And you’ve said neither am I
But the air outside so soft is saying everything
All I want is to feel this way
To be this close, to feel the same
All I want is to feel this way
The evening speaks, I feel it say…
Nothing’s so cold
As closing the heart when all we need
Is to free the soul
But we wouldn’t be that brave I know
And the air outside so soft, confessing everything
And it won’t matter now
Whatever happens will be
Though the air speaks of all we’ll never be
It won’t trouble me
And it feels so close
Let it take me in
Let it hold me so
I can feel it say…
“Something To Believe In”
Well I see him on the TV preachin’ ’bout the promised land
He tells me to believe in Jesus
And steals the money from my hand
Some say he was a good man
But Lord I think he sinned, yeah
Twenty-two years of mental tears
Cries a suicidal Vietnam vet
Who fought a losing war on a foreign shore
To find his country didn’t want him back
Their bullets took his best friend in Saigon
Our lawyers took his wife and kids, no regrets
In a time I don’t remember, in a war he can’t forget
He cried “Forgive me for what I’ve done there
Cause I never meant the things I did”
And give me something to believe in if there’s a Lord above
And give me something to believe in Oh, Lord arise
My best friend died a lonely man
In some Palm Springs hotel room
I got the call last Christmas Eve
And they told me the news
I tried all night not to break down and cry
As the tears rolled down my face
I felt so cold and empty
Like a lost soul out of place
And the mirror mirror on the wall sees my smile it fades again
Sometimes I wish to God I didn’t know now
The things I didn’t know then road you gotta take me home
I drive by the homeless sleeping on a cold dark street
Like bodies in an open grave
Underneath the broken old neon sign
That used to read JESUS SAVES
A mile away live the rich folks
And I see how they’re living it up
While the poor they eat from hand to mouth
The rich is drinkin’ from a golden cup
And it just makes me wonder why so many lose, so few win
You take the high road and I’ll take the low road
Sometimes I wish to God I didn’t know now
The things I didn’t know then
And give me something to believe in