Tuesday, May 03, 2005
Navel Gazing and Foot Fighting
This post by Tamar, the links there, and the discussion in the comments has been an amazing read. I thought to blog about it a little since I’m meming today (look! I’ve made up my own word), to come out of my own spiritual closet. And what a place the closet is, a place where I spend a lot of time contemplating, considering. The colors, the darkness, the quiet, and the light seeping in from a glittery window above the purple umbrella next to the board games, make a perfect place within which to navel-gaze.
Tamar quoted an e-mail to her that said, "As soon as I see the word ‘God’ in any news report, as in ‘my commitment before God to her was the day I bought that ring and put it on her finger, and I'm not backing down from that, Mason said,’ I go SOUTH!"
I understand the feeling and it’s borne out of recent American politics, from observing a growing desire of some people in these United States to blur the line of separation between state and religion. My problem is…what religion should take over?
This is where I stumble. I have no religion. My spiritual journey has been bumpy to say the least. For all the twists and turns (roller coaster like), the funny thing is that I’ve ended up in the same place I started. My journey has turned into a merry-go-round.
I was raised in a religious smorgasbord of a family. My father had been raised as an Orthodox Jew in Iraq, his family becoming conservative in Israel, eventually settling in the United States where my father abandoned all religious practice in favor of Zionism. "Judaism" to me had been all about Israeli politics, interrupted every so often by Hanukkah and Passover. My mother was raised Methodist, eventually choosing Catholicism as her base religion (the Mexican version, i.e. like my father, her focus was less on dogma and more on cultural practices) with a smattering of Wicca and other such spiritual diversions. My brother, sister and I floated along behind them, our religious beliefs shaped by theirs. On the sidelines, our extended family consisted of Mormons, Muslims, the occasional Buddhist, and a healthy variety of Christians.
My brother tends to atheism, my sister tends towards general spiritualism, and I’m the avowed agnostic, right where I started as a child.
My first major turn was during college when I joined the Hillel at USC, a great place – I made friends, I prayed on Friday nights, I learned songs, I learned about the faith, I hooked up with a boyfriend (well…duh!). I traveled along that route until law school where I turned once again into an agnostic, a questioner with no home.
I reached my second major turn when my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer...turning point isn't quite the word, "cataclysmic break-down of everything spiritual" is more like it. My father was devastated and his true atheism came out - he believed death sent him into a black hole of nothingness. All his science, all his brilliance, shattered with his impending death. It broke my heart in just as many millions of pieces to see the man who held up my world like Atlas…absolutely break. I became a "Christian" to heal him. I had prayer groups going, I read the New Testament, I talked to Christian friends, I prayed and prayed… Then he died. As did my Christianity. In the months following my father’s death, I explored feverishly the “afterlife.” I read every grieving book, every book that suggested there was life after death, in order to prove my father wrong. During that time, my sister and I began to notice that she dreamed what I saw during the day – so specific there was no way it was coincidence.
One evening, for example, I watched a movie called “Fearless” where a young mother lost her child in an airplane crash. The film focused on the mother holding tightly to her child as the plane landed – this was her torment as she thought she let go of her child, the child dying in the crash landing. I watched the film late at night. The next morning my sister called saying she had the strangest dream, so real. She dreamt she was holding onto my toddler (the only one I had at the time, she had none) at the edge a cliff, to prevent him from falling. Her main focus was holding onto him. Countless times followed. Even recently, my grandmother told me a cousin-in-law was ill with an eye condition that if not treated could lead to blindness – the family was worried. When I told my sister about the situation the next day, she told me she’d dreamt several times in the night about being blind. There was no way in our minds this could be coincidence, not at that level of specificity. For a while we “believed.” This was proof.
I slipped back a while later into agnosticism again. When my mother died several years later, I believed for a while in the spirituality of death…that there was definitely “something.” After months…I slipped and here is where I stay. An agnostic…ever questioning, ever disbelieving and believing…and never settling.
I reject fundamentalist Christianity and the like, I resent the shift of my country to the extreme right. I'm more open to Judaism, but I have trouble with the often-lesser role of women. Ultimately, I have trouble with the idea of "God" and the ensuing fantastical concepts that come out of a belief thereof. However, the idea that we live this life only is just as unfathomable to me. How do you explain human relationships? The concept of humor arising out of literal human ashes? The transcendence of the human condition is evident in photographs, their eyes telling you their story, carrying over from the years of the first photograph. What about our amazing ability to survive unbelievable odds...the fact that you drive in your car and glance at someone...and from many feet away, the two of you connect via your eyes, the windows to your soul...it's beyond evolution, beyond "survival of the fittest." I agree, “I think, therefore I am.” We people are evidence of the Divine.
But...what IS that? What does it mean? Where do we go? Why am I allowed to sense this? My sister dreams what I see – this is true.
The questions fascinate me. I don’t see an end to the Merry-go-round anytime soon. Or the navel-gazing. Or the foot-fighting.