I always felt, at least I guess I feel like I’ve always thought this way; that, if there is a god, or God, then he or she will know I am a good and loving person, and that I try always to be guided by a strong moral compass, and that if there is ANYthing even remotely like heaven, then I will surely go there because I am “good.” My brain never could understand how an “all loving god” would be loving to only some. The word “all” seemed to be misconstrued or misunderstood, in my ever so humble opinion.
Nothing that was ever read from the bible to my ears spoke to me. Nothing about catechism class ever spoke to me. I went to the classes because my parents made me, and I questioned early on how there were any more people on the planet if god supposedly only made Adam and Eve and they only had two sons. Then later in 5th grade questioned a catechism class mom as to why it was any of her business whether a woman wanted to have a baby or not when she tried to recruit me for a right to life march and wanted me to glue gruesome pictures onto poster board. Both of those childhood experiences got me a ‘talking to‘ from the priest, who never made me feel anything like I thought church should make a person feel, so to say that by 6th grade I was finished, is true. Nothing about the religion, or the mass services, the man speaking from the book, or the CCD classes ever made me feel at all included or connected to any god, if there was or is one.
I feel like I always believed that there was something much bigger than just us, or just this solar system, that earth can hardly be the only one like this in such a vast unending universe…if there are billions of galaxies, how can anybody believe we are the only which sustains life?? I don’t know how old I was when I began to use my free will to think the way I wanted, and not think much, at all, for what was being taught to me.
I believe in a myriad of ideas, concepts, and beautiful loving notions about what it means to be a human, and interact with others on this planet that we call home, but my daily “mantra” if you will, my one true commandment, comes from my father, and has been a part of me for all of my life. Despite being brought up in the catholic church and being an altar boy as a child, and making me start life as a catholic person, my dad used an expression and still uses it, “make plenty of deposits in your karmic bank” that forced him to have to explain to a wee girl, what is karma, w and I truly believe THAT, more than anything I was ever taught by anybody, is what has influenced me, been my one true goal, and has been the basis of my “faith” in this life. It seems that I was, unintentionally guided by my dad perhaps, to be a Buddhist if anything!!!
I have done some wrong in this life. I have done things for which I am sorry, ashamed, and that have hurt other people. My one darkness that I kept a secret for more than 25 years finally broke open when I gathered the courage and accepted the consequences of the “telling,” and in shame and apology I asked the universe to free me from the cloud that hung over me. I feel pretty confident that if, when I die, there is really a god, or God, or anything remotely like what my Nana believed to be true, that my goodness and rightness will be enough…
Some believe that you have to accept that a good and kind man in history called Jesus is the son of God, and that he is your savior, in order to get to heaven. Some believe that you have to be one of a select chosen few to get to heaven. Some believe that you have to get “right” with God, whatever that must mean…I suppose all of them are perfectly valid for those who choose to believe what they believe…What I think is that IF there is God and IF there is heaven, then surely he, or she, is not going to turn anybody away…even the bad guys, because, from what I have been told there is a whole lot of forgiveness going on up there in the unknown, and even the most despicable humans can be forgiven…it seems too confusing and contradicting to me and therefore, it never sat right with me as anything to believe in.
For many young adults, going off to college and being around professors with different ideas and beliefs and theories, and peers from other kinds of families and communities, is what sets us onto our own paths and ways of thinking as grown-ups…we finally get to be around adults who are not our parents with ideas that are new and they share. While this was true for me in so many ways, particularly as I began the study for my second of two majors, in feminist theory and women’s history, it was a children’s book that I think moved me the most towards the way I think still to this day. I bought it when I was 22 for my little girl for her fourth birthday, called “The Mountains of Tibet” In this story a little boy dreams to see the world but he grows up, works as a woodcutter, has a family, grows old, and thinks about how he never left his valley and as he nears death realizes that he never went anywhere he dreamed to go…and upon his death, in a place that is ‘both very dark and very bright,’ he hears a voice asking him questions about the life he has just finished living and what might he want to do next…you really must read it if you have not, and the illustrations are exquisite and the story is superb…and the fact of the matter is, a preschooler and a college student, on the same cold January night, reading together at bedtime, discovered a way to think about living, and death, that has stuck with us both ever since. (The Mountains of Tibet, by Mordicai Gerstein, published in 1987, if you are interested)
This horrific school shooting in Florida on Wednesday is what got me thinking about life and death and beliefs and ideas about what might be next, if anything. I found myself thinking with sadness from the perspective of a teenager, shot and bleeding and perhaps knowing, that moment, that she is not going to live to do any of the things she dreamed of doing. Or a boy as he is falling to the ground, maybe trying to remember when he left the house and hoping that he told his mom he loved her. Or a teacher, terrified for his own life but knowing those kids were counting on him to be brave and somehow in the most unknowing of circumstances, know what to do. Or the cops, how scary it must be to have no idea how bad it’s going to be and what they will encounter upon arrival. Or the parents, seeing and hearing the news and waiting, the inexplicably painful number of minutes it must have been for the text message or phone call to come through that their child is okay. Or the parents who did not get that call or text…I can’t imagine that anguish, my child has not yet been accounted for, my child is dead, how will I take one more breath in this life when I have to now think about burying my child…and I find myself thinking too about the shooter… Where was his moral compass? What did he believe? How could he DO something like that? and so on, and so on, and so on…
I just have found myself having these thoughts, with every news story, press conference, or gun control discussion I read…thinking about each of these perspectives and what it means to be alive, and then soon not to be alive, and what do we believe about “what’s next.” What I know for sure is that my wish for each of those victims is that, at that final moment, they were not afraid. I hope whatever comes to us, at the moment we move from the alive to the not alive, is beautiful no matter what we believe.
I have friends who are deeply faithful Christians, I have friends who are Jewish, I know someone who is Hindu, I know a few who are Buddhist, and I have friends who are agnostic and atheist, and I don’t believe that any one of them is more right than the others, and I have loving feelings for all of them. I also believe in my heart that if there is anything perfect and eternal after death, other than just being fired to ashes, or decomposing in a pine box, they all, we all, get to enjoy it. They let me be free to be me, and I let them free to be them. I feel pretty strongly that trying to be a good person, an honest person, a loving person, a kind person, an empathetic person are all tenets that I can get behind, and I suppose any religion would think these principles for living are what’s important. I hope I’m right.