Monday, August 10, 2009

My Religion

It is my belief that we are each responsible for developing our own religion - our own approach to a transcendent or ultimate truth. I choose a religion constantly in development, with stories and symbols and practices that seem meaningful and can create for me, at times, "religious experience." Sometimes my religion has led me into community. At other times it has led me away, into solitude.

It is a religion I follow, like a cat might follow a person who smells of food. The more I follow, the more it moves. The closer I get, the more it expands.

I used to abhor Christianity because of its meanness - not just the small and narrow self-righteousness of some of its followers but the meanness of its God, who required a bloody sacrifice to make up for "original sin." Such ideas remain abhorent to me and I reject them. I also reject the notion of two domains, one sacred and invisible, the other profane and at hand.

This is it. I do not claim to know what "this" actually is, or why there is an "it" at all, but "it" is holy and I am part of it. I notice also that we are impermanent, coming into being mainly as food. Life feeds on life. If the universe and all existance is itself holy, then its processes, including the recycling of its energies, are holy. Where can I find stories and symbols that make meaning of this distressing idea?

I find them, if I look with care, in the Christian Eucharist. A man (or a god, take your pick) is broken and fed to those who follow. He suffers and dies, as we all must, for the rest of us. His blood, the Blood of Life, is spilled and drunk in a Holy Communion - a communion shared everywhere by all things. We come and we go, broken and fed to each other as one body, the body of Christ, the Universal Embodiment in which we live and move and have our being.

Where are we, hurtling through a curved space on an outward arm of a spiral galaxy with a "singularity" at its heart, flying away from all other known things in a miracle of light, color, form, and forces we only begin to comprehend? We are in a miracle, the only miracle, and enough.

I am a result of, and a part of, and a partaker in this miracle. I belong to it, am given to it, and participate in it literally and symbolically as I eat the body and drink the blood of life. For mine, too, will be given. My religion teaches me to give my life gladly, to find the gift meaningful, and to receive the gifts of Life with thanksgiving and celebration.

How Long?

Franny the cat did recover, mainly because I was willing to give $450 to the vet. Her brother Zooey got sick and recovered too, free of charge, because I gave him some of Franny's medicine.
So we are all around a bit longer, and we assume this is a good thing. We continue to stoke the metabolic fires, all the while feeling the press of time and the shortening of our days.

Life moves anyway, with or without the substance I call "me." My family, whom I moved to Florida to be near in my old age, is moving to London in a few days. So much for my plans. They matter only to me. Once again I am reminded that the future, as well as the past, is only a story we tell ourselves - how we wish it was or will be. This moment, though also fleet, is at least holy. "What God hath to give he continueth to give." Why die of grief? The world goes on, offering itself each moment to my imagination if I will but see.

If I jump into the chasm before me, will I fly? The answer is yes, but not forever. How long depends partly on the depth of the chasm, partly on my own buoyancy. But ultimately, how long is not the right question. The right question, for me, is "Can I unbind myself from fear and self-interest and fly freely like a kite, or a leaf, or a helium-filled balloon, or a star?"

Someday I will. Why not start now?