So many philosophies abound on the subject of life, past lives, karma, goodwill, fate, futures, memory, purpose. The meaning, of all of this. We go through our days searching for reasons, looking for clues that will help us understand the Great Mystery. Well, I do. Hubster is less curious about why we are here and what it all means. I sometimes envy his solid and scientific approach to all things metaphysical. He is able to just not think about them. What a relief that must be!
I grew up in the midst of church, quite literally. Some of my earliest memories are falling asleep in my sleeping bag under the seats in the church, listening to the preacher’s voice at the Sunday night service. There is a kind of a musical rhythm to preaching when you don’t understand the words. That old tradition; generations of oratory, was my first lullaby. My parents went to pentecostal churches (those are the ones you might identify as the ‘Happy Clappy’ churches). And so, we four went too. We had devotional every morning, home-church mid week and then church twice on Sundays. The singing was robust and energetic. People raised their arms and waved them in the air. I used to wonder why God didn’t wave back. Why some people could hear his voice but not others. I used to pray with great earnestness. I wanted to know the God they said was loving and kind.
When I was born I was dedicated to God. I was four I was guided in the sinner’s prayer and ‘gave my heart to the Lord’. I didn’t want to go to hell when there was another option! The Bible said all manner of horrific things. Vengeance and punishment and judgement and eternal suffering. The Bible said that if I so much as thought of a sin, I had sinned. I was terrified. I quite often thought of sins. I especially thought sinful thoughts about church and God and Christians. They just happened in my head. People sang songs of love to Him and danced in the aisles for their joy. But I trembled at the thought of that angry God. I played my part and talked the talk, until one day, I couldn’t sustain the double life that I had grown into. The church me and the real me. The two ‘me’s were now so far apart that I couldn’t behave like a ‘christian’ and feel like myself. It was a difficult conversation to have with my parents.
My parents’ people were faith-in-action people. They believed in doing. They were generous and truly understood the power of giving, of themselves, their skills and their own possessions. Their communities were strong and compassionate. In every church they attended there were people walking the talk, being God’s grace in the world. And just as in any group of people, there were strange folk. People I found it hard to like. And I sang the songs and I clapped along. People swooned at the pulpit, cried with joy at their healing, spoke in strange languages at their baptisms, screamed as they were delivered of their demon possessions… and some spoke with the voice of God Himself during prophecy time. God Himself spoke in King Jame’s English, just like my bible. Not Hebrew. Or the language of heaven, whatever that be. How curious, I thought. And I would chide myself for another sinful thought. My heart longed for the kind of connection with God that so many people seemed to have. But it was always so elusive, just beyond my grasp. I think I knew that the God of my parents did not love me in the way He loved some of those people, and I couldn’t find real love for Him amongst the noise of all my thoughts.
As I grew older and began to read more widely, experience life more, explore the ideas of modern religions and world history, my questions came thick and fast. My doubts grew. I saw the manipulations of communities by corrupt church leaders, by TV evangelists, by healers and preachers and worship entertainers. I stopped feeling guilty about all the ways I had failed in the church. I began to let myself wonder and think even more. I wondered about other religions and began to research. Why? I don’t know exactly why I search for answers, why I want to believe in something. Because it is nicer to believe. Because life is easier if you believe in something. But every religion I looked at was not my religion. Did not answer the call of my heart for connection and meaning. There are aspects of religion that I truly love. I love the quiet reflection that can only be found inside some chapels. The hush and rest of a seat in a candlelit space. I love the music of faith, the melodies of my childhood, the songs of scriptures in a chorus of voices. I love a good Psalm when I feel adrift. A verse from my early years can bring me the comfort of my mother. The memory of her voice saying my goodnight prayer, the same every night until I left home.
In a simple way, I feel certain there is something. I have felt a rush of feeling when wonderful things happen in my life. It is gratitude, deep thankfulness from my very soul. It wells up and sometimes I have to shout it out. Thank you! But who am I thanking? I am not sure. I feel gratitude to the greatness of life. I once watched a film that was about life in a meadow in France; Microcosmos I think it was called. It was filmed on microscopic cameras and showed extraordinary, exquisite details of insect life. The detail, harmony, the ecosystem played out in all its’ artistry. It completely blew my mind. So profound. Somewhere in there is the meaning of life. The secrets and the mystery of it all. Somewhere out there, or in here, surely, is a life force worth worshipping. So I feel gratitude to something I can’t define. I wonder at the sheer intricacy of our planet. Our Universe. Our bodies and our minds. Our capacity to love and to hurt and to create and to destroy. But I have not found a religious God.
My soul has been trying to get it right. I try hard to show kindness where ever I can. This is part of the religion of my heart. I try to see all people for who they are without the damage that has been inflicted upon them. I try to bring thoughtfulness and calm. I try to connect and cherish. I try to make the step toward a person rather than take a step back. I try to add value to the world through the children I have brought into it, by helping them build character and strong values. I try to practise compassion and most of the time, I succeed. I believe in choices and consequences and the importance of making sound decisions. I believe that we are all important, regardless of creed or religion. And in my ‘religion’, I think having a good laugh at myself and at anything ridiculous is good for the soul.
How long til my soul gets it right? Can any human being ever reach that kind of light?
This line is one in a song that always makes me smile. It is a tongue in cheek song about reincarnation by the Indigo Girls. I found this song when I was 19 and working in Germany as an au pair. Their music was great to dwell on at that age, such good lyrics. I still love so many of their tracks. They take me back. Have a listen to Galileo. It’s worth paying attention to the lyrics, they make me laugh out loud. And in the absence of something more transcendent, laughter is a good good thing.
er… and just like many of the Indigo Girls videos, this one is a bit distracting. Better to listen than watch. Or listen. Then watch!