Monday, January 10, 2011
You Are Here...
People don't give themselves enough credit. Honestly, most people would rather credit "fate," "destiny" (the name of an ex-girlfriend in high school, believe it or not...), or even "god" for the good and bad in their lives. They spend thousands of dollars on self-help books, meditation courses, individualized retreats... I can't help but wonder if, when we gave up on hunting and gathering, domesticated beasts, harnessed electricity, and learned how to prevent or cure our natural enemies, the gaping void left behind--that nagging feeling that a saber-toothed tiger was just above us on that ledge ready to attack and eat us--needed to be filled by making ourselves our own worst enemies if only to prevent the onset of craziness. To save ourselves, we must doubt ourselves. (Hmm... Sounds like something I need to put on a T-shirt and sell for $19.95 at a personalized retreat for finding your inner pygmy goat...)
Recently, on our way home from an event at a friend's house, Richard turned to me, a concerned look crossing his face: "So, what do you believe in?" Ah, my poor semi-Christian husband. You see, we had been discussing (among other things) stones as a reminder to better ourselves, new age meta-physics, and a few other things to be sure--you'll forgive me if the seven glasses of wine make things a bit fuzzy... So, to ease his confusion (and, being as how he lives with me and isn't quite sure!), let's ease his troubled mind:
What do I believe?
Lets start with some basics, and work our way from there, okay?
1. I believe there may or may not be (but most likely is "not be") a god(s).
This will break my mother's heart, I know. She thinks I am turning my back on something she knows to be true: That God does exist and cares for everyone and everything in this great greenish-blue planet we call Earth. But I counter that "knowledge" of god to say, "How can I turn my back on something I truly don't believe is there?" True, I used to. I grew up taking for granted that everyone knew there was a god, and those who chose not to believe in him (or her, I suppose) were simply being ignorant or obtuse, knowing truly in their heart of hearts there must be a god. It was simply their "sin nature" that prevented them from "knowing" this god.
My sin nature must have caught up with me, eh?
There never will be, never was, and never can be definitive proof of a god(s). That some people "know" is simply where opinion gets caught up with faith, and a dangerous mix ensues in which one should take "blind faith" on anything they cannot know for sure, thereby justifying the previous, first hand belief of "knowing." In other words, by saying you "know" there is a god(s), but saying you can never know completely this god(s), and so anything about him must be taken on "faith" would only harm and not help a belief in this god to begin with, wouldn't you think? Conundrum of the human history, I suppose.
We (as the human race overall, not as individuals) say there is a god(s). But we say he is so high above us, so much more than us, much more than we could ever comprehend, and all we have to go on is our senses and these "letters" he left us in the forms of Holy Books and Revelation. But the only way we get these books and revelations are from people, the very things that can't hope to comprehend or know him. And so what are we left with? A bunch of people who can't know god, but "know" god, and therefore foible blindly around in the hopes that we get something right, something that sounds good, and pray that god(s) will not hold us too accountable for the very reasons we are said to worship him...
I think this is the part in a movie review that would say "buffoonery ensues, but plot lacks direction and able actors." To say you "know" there's a god, but you cannot "know" god, and must rely on people about god and his attributes, personality, rules, reasons, with a healthy dose of faith and naivete mixed in, with salt to taste...? I'm sorry, this just doesn't cut the mustard.
I'm actually okay with the idea that perhaps there are unknown beings of great power somewhere out there in the cosmos. However, until science can show probability, possibility, and provability--observation and empirical data--one must assume that the five senses we have are all that can be trusted. Being as how there is no evidence, no photographs, no tiny bits of deity DNA floating about the jetsam of the universe... Well...
Some people have said that this means I am setting up man as a god(s). I shall try to explain why this is also untrue.
2. I believe man is god, man is devil, but always, man is simply man.
It's hard being perfect, isn't it? We know we will never be so, but we can imagine perfection in ways that seem perfect to us when in all actuality, it is simply just a different way of doing "fucked up." What is the one common denominator in all of our philosophical problems and issues? Man. Who is the one being that tries to interpret, define, and distribute this divine-ness to others? Man. Who is the one that heals and wounds? Man. The one who gives and takes? Man. The one who arbitrarily decides right from wrong, better from worse, and bad from good? Man. It is all about us, whether we like to admit that or not. Not individually, no. That's too narcissistic. Not ethnically or racially, either. We don't like differentiating like that, even though we do consciously and subconsciously. So we divide ourselves up most brutally over the things we cannot explain with logic. Religion. We say our way is the way, our way is it, the end, the answer. And right now, about 7 billion others also think they have the answer, even the ones who profess they don't--like me--think they have an answer.
We, as mankind, are the common denominator. We even make our god(s) like us in every way conceivable, from the Greek gods who were a tad slutty and twisted like a very good soap opera, to the one that made himself like us to save us (talk about making man your god!!), to the ones that simply couldn't give a rat's ass about us if they were so inclined. Our gods are as varied as we are. Coincidence? Or some truly bizarre way of revealing the answer? Maybe after a few more millennia, we'll have enough bits and pieces from all the religions that have come and gone to come up with the one end-all be-all philosophy that makes everyone feel special and loved and absolutely right while allowing for everyone else to also feel that way... Who knows? (Psst! No one!)
Our sense of a perfect divine has changed with the whims, knowledge, and times of ourselves. Why is god so interchangeable, so fluid? Because he is of our own making. Why does the "devil" appear also to be so fluid and time-chained in his abilities to "tempt" and "destroy"? Because he is also us, and of our making. Nothing more, nothing less.
I set man up not as a god or a devil. We do that ourselves, each and every one of us. And I don't believe it's because we truly believe there is a god, either. God is simply our way of coping with not only the unexplainable and unknown, but also of dealing with our fragile egos and sense of "Are we alone?" in this universe. We've always sensed something bigger than ourselves, but not because there is a god(s). But because, just by looking up at a sun, moon, and stars we cannot touch, it is proven that we are small. Because we die and cannot prevent it no matter how much we dance around a fire, chant up a storm, or sacrifice the masses. Because we see so much that is still unanswered, no mater how much we poke, prod, test, and retest. As time passes, we gain more knowledge. Things we used to hold so dear we killed over it are now distant memories and fading history.
Remember when someone dared assert that the world was round? This didn't affect anyone or anything. It didn't change the Catholic Church's salvation message. It didn't cause people to suffer and die. It didn't change the price of tea in China... But people died over this idea.
Saying there is no god will not change one damn thing. Saying there is a god won't change anything either. But don't say you know. Because you don't. You can claim faith, walking on water, answered prayers and the like because you know there's no way to test, prove, or deny any of it (yet). The only thing you know is your faith, feelings, and opinions, all thrown together in the casserole of your life. But that's all you know. You know your opinions and beliefs. And that's all any of us will ever know for 100% certain.
3. I believe in iced teas all-benevolent goodness.
Truly, it is the one thing you can always count on that I will drink until my dying day. Like most things today, it causes cancer in some way, shape, or form, I suppose. I'm sure there's a study out about the dangerous effects of drinking nothing but iced tea for weeks on end, but there you are. What does this have to do with Man, God, and Devil?
Isn't it clear? Iced Tea is my god. Without it, I'm the biggest, most grouchy-ass person in the universe. Whole ecosystems have been devastated, species wiped out, and worlds cataclysmicly ended due to my "drinking problem." I live and die for Iced Tea, I wake up and drink it, I drink it before I go to bed, and every single waking moment of thirst in my life is satisfied by a gulp of this precious liquid. It needs to be in my refrigerator, in my lunch bag at work, at friends and families houses and parties. I am its willing slave; I am its god, for without me, the tea could never be my god; but without tea, I could never hope to attain a good day without it. Make sense? I'm sure a lot of you will have fun picking apart this analogy, saying why it may or may not work as an analogy, but be that as it may, the nitty-gritty truths apply. (Batteries not included; ice cubes sold separately)
I've also recently begun treating water as my god. Morning, noon, and night, water slides down my throat, making me more healthy, making iced tea that much more delicious when I grab that jug instead.
4. Three Things That Are Always True: Death, Taxes, and Fundies
Throughout history, in all of space and time, these are the three things that keep man going.
Knowing we will die keeps us always searching, always looking, always wanting to "know."
There is always someone who has power over us, and takes from us (sometimes with our consent, sometimes without), and our destiny will always be influenced by someone else in power somewhere.
In keeping with the "our lives are always influenced by us" philosophy, fundamentalists and conservatives are those who are afraid of the unknown and hold fast to the tried and true of their past, usually handed down from previous generations. I'm sure there were several Greeks who balked at the idea of a Hercules being born of god and virgin and that it was heresy. Fundies need not be of the Christian persuasion any more than so-called "liberals" are always godless.
No matter the century, the size of the population, or the cubic square feet of Pluto's size having any sort of bearing on it's planetary status in this universe, death, taxes, and fundies will always be here, for good or ill, and it's all our fault.
These are some of my more fundamental beliefs. Take them for what you will. Most of them are beliefs in motion, evolving and changing as I experience this life and live it to the fullest extent I can. But until next time, This I Believe.