My best theory is already in me…

I’ve decided to take a short break from The Book of God. I made it as far as the story of Joshua and the wall of Jericho before I got too bewildered and sad to continue. I’ve been plaguing my Catholic educated wife with questions and pleas for explanations enough that she’s relented and agreed to play catch up with me so we can have discussions about some of the things I take umbrage to. Ex/ I don’t get the Jericho thing. I understand that from the side of the folks wandering the desert for 40 years it was like finally getting a bite of the carrot that had been dangling in front of them for so long. But what about the poor people who were living behind that wall? What exactly did they do that they deserved to die violent deaths? They were just going about their business. It’s not like anybody put up a sign on the land that said, “Beware of impending death when we’re back to claim our place in 40 years.” Pretty crummy deal for those folks and I can’t imagine that it won any converts among the displaced. Any Christians out there that can explain this for me? My understanding is that the Old Testament is mostly the history leading up to the dawn of Christianity, but it still bothers me. I’m also having some difficulty understanding what I’m supposed to read as literal and what is supposed to be allegorical. In theory, there’s a good mix of both, so how do you decide what’s what?

After I took a break from that, I picked up The Path of a Christian Witch. Not deviating from Christianity with this one exactly, but I was intrigued at the idea of two such opposing viewpoints merging into a cohesive spirituality. Overall, though, I found the book to be a bit disappointing. The author does find a way to make peace with seemingly disparate belief systems, but not in a way that made a lot of sense to me. I did find it interesting that she came from a Catholic background, because they tend to be a bit more restrictive on thinking outside the box, but I think that same background prevented me from connecting with her. (One of the few certainties I have, religiously speaking, is that I don’t agree with the Catholic doctrine.) All the same, it was interesting to read someone’s story of finding their own path. I’m pretty sure my path is going to include little bits and pieces from everywhere, all amalgamated into my own brand of faith, so it’s nice to read about others who took the same approach and made it work.

I’m branching away from Christianity this week. Currently I am engrossed in “The Buddha Walks Into A Bar” by Lodro Rinzler. I’m not very far into it, but he’s made some key points about being patient with yourself through the process because enlightenment isn’t attained in a day. I feel like that’s important to remember. We live in a one-click world where we can get anything we need/want/desire delivered to us with little to no lag time. We don’t have to wait for letters to know how family is because we just check Facebook. We don’t have to take the time to cook an elaborate meal because we can order in or have it catered. Everything’s easily accessible. So we expect the same from ourselves spiritually. We should take an hour to meditate and that will clue us in on the secrets of the universe and how to be our best selves. Only it doesn’t work that way and Rinzler makes sure to repeatedly state that you have to be gentle with yourself and allow yourself whatever time you need to figure out who you are. He also makes a (deservedly) big deal about staying present in the moment, which is spot on considering most of us can’t last five minutes without some type of external stimuli. And it’s not our fault! It’s just the world we’re in. But being able to stay in the moment is a gift to yourself and everyone you interact with. It’s a powerful ideal to work towards.

I’m eagerly awaiting the arrival of “Am I a Hindu?” and “Awakening the Buddha Within.” This whole process has already been incredibly eye opening and I’m excited to see what I learn next.

The essence of all religions is one. Only their approaches are different. -Gandhi

I’ve been thinking about religion a lot lately. I’ve spent my entire life referring to myself as a Christian, but it’s starting to dawn on me that I barely have a clue as to what that means. I know that I have faith in something more than this existence, but that’s true of pretty much every religion. The utter hypocrisy of declaring membership to this belief system when I have never actually read the Bible in its entirety doesn’t sit well with me. It’s also occurred to me that what I have learned has encouraged me to suppress certain curiosities and has encouraged me to view the world as innately patriarchal, both of which I disagree with as a general rule.

I think faith should be a celebration and a source of peace and I’ve struggled to find those things of late. I know it’s kind of the trend to not really believe in anything, but I’ve always felt like having faith in something was important and so I have decided maybe my faith needs to be restructured rather than discarded. So I’m throwing out the rules. I’ve always believed that all paths lead to the same place, but I’ve never actually found the courage to follow my own path, rather than taking the standard one laid out before me. I don’t fit into the standard size box and I don’t think I have to. Faith isn’t one size fits all. And yet I’ve let myself be boxed into something not quite comfortable because of fear of some kind of lasting punishment. Just seems wrong. So I’m going to find a way to believe and to celebrate my spirituality in a way that fits in with the core of who I am. I’m trying to remind myself that if I don’t fault other people for the way they believe, then I shouldn’t fault myself for trying to find my own way. Ultimately I think it will be a worthwhile undertaking. I want a faith that fits me, not one that I have to try to pretzel myself into fitting. And I have to believe that that’s acceptable.

I came across the quote, “An it harm none, do as you will,” while I was reading, and I think it’s a pretty solid rule to start with. I don’t know where my path will take me or how I will identify when I reach the end of it, but I feel certain that however I journey, I will inevitably reach the same peak as everyone else. That said, it occurs to me that it would be fair to ask why bother with finding your own path in the first place if you’ll end up the same place regardless, but it seems to me that it’s kind of like walking through life in clothes that are too small. The end result is that you’re not naked, but wouldn’t it be nicer to be not naked in clothes that fit perfectly? 

And so off I go to hit the books. First stop, The Book of God by Walter Wangerin. Gotta love when someone can put the Bible in novel format. I know many argue that you miss the subtleties when you simplify the reading, but I’d say that putting the material in a format that is easier to digest makes people more apt to actually read it. At least people like me who would rather focus on the story that the language.

I could go for some more reading suggestions, though. I find I’m especially interested in learning more about Hinduism, so if anyone knows of a book that provides a good overview, that would be awesome. I still feel a great deal of certainty re: my chosen deity, but I’d like to find a way to believe that fits in more with who I am, and from what I’ve read, Hinduism might actually be a good fit for that. That said, I’m open to other ideas. Ultimately, faith is deeply personal to me, but right now I am finding myself in a stage of evolution and value the insight of others who see the world differently.  I’m not really up for starting a debate on who’s right and who’s wrong- that defeats my purpose right now- but I’d love to be able to discuss ideas and beliefs in an open and non-judgmental way with anyone inclined to do so. So for all ten or so of you that randomly check in with this blog- fire away if you have thoughts or opinions or expertise or suggestions. I’d certainly appreciate it. 🙂

Extra! Extra! Angel marathon leads to moral ambiguity mini-rant!!!

As a newly minted freelancer, I would be a liar if I didn’t admit to playing catch up with my old friend Netflix when life gets slow, the idea of yet another job search becomes too depressing for words, and I’m fresh out of spanking new ideas to blog about. Today Netflix surprised me with a story that struck me as very intriguing.

The players are a girl, a boy, and a man. The man is the villain. He tried to kill the girl. The girl is the victim. She has suffered at the hands of the villain. The boy is the hero. He wants to save the girl. The interesting thing to me is how the roles change based on the choices they make and the choices that are made for them. The girl wants to kill the man, but the boy wants to prevent her from doing so and save her from becoming a killer. This could be possible if the girl hadn’t already taken steps to ensure that the man’s death is inevitable. He is going to die no matter what. Even so, at the last moment, the boy steps in and performs the fatal blow. 

So then, who is the victim and who is the villain and are there even any heroes left in the story? The girl starts as victim, but in seeking retribution does she become villain or has she taken on the challenge of being her own hero? And in dying in a manner similar to how he killed others, does the man become the victim? Do the scales of justice re-balance in an eye for an eye way or is he always just the villain? As for the boy, is he still a hero because his motives were pure, or does he become the villain because he took a life? Or maybe he becomes a victim because chivalry spurred him to do the unthinkable to protect the girl and in doing so he became what he despised. The story line can’t resolve because the players no longer know what roles they are playing. And that is the part that is intriguing.

If we can’t define ourselves, if we don’t know what role we are playing, it’s hard to resolve our own story. And yet time keeps moving and whether we actively participate or not, we’re pretty much all marching onward to our inevitable resolution.

In addition to ruminating a bit on how we are defined by choices, I have been reflecting a bit on moral ambiguity and on how we determine right and wrong. Do we know something is wrong because we have always been taught that it is wrong, or is there some intrinsic knowledge of the universe we are born with that helps us to avoid moral uncertainty? Maybe it’s some combination of both. The big questions come up and they’re not always easy to answer. So how do we eventually settle on our own moral compass? And how do we allow that compass to evolve as we evolve? There are a lot of reasons I was reflecting on this, personally, but an example that occurred to me as a way of illustrating the broader question was one I’m more familiar with. I’ve always defined myself as a Christian. I have also defined myself as not heterosexual for the entirety of my adult life. But many that subscribe to the teachings of Christianity say that if it’s not hetero, it’s a big no no in the eyes of the big guy. So, how is that apparent conflict resolved? Tough question. And one that doesn’t have an easy answer. Lots of soul searching and tears and angst happened before I found some peace with that aspect of myself, but I still can’t easily explain the hows or the whys. Lately, though, my reflections have taken me down a bit of a different path in terms of moral ambiguity. I can’t say I’m questioning my faith, because I still feel a very deep certainty as far as that goes. I think what I am questioning is the limitations imposed upon us by those professing to have a direct line to heaven. I find myself very uncertain about some of the rules and regulations. I get the big ones. Totally. Don’t kill people and all that jazz. It’s the little ones that I find myself taking issue with. I feel like if we could have a direct translation of the big book, the story we’d hear might be a lot different than the one we’ve been told.