Archive for the 'Religion' Category

God of My Understanding

Dear God as I understand You,

I have recently lost all of the most important things in my life. Earlier this year, I lost my sanity, then I lost my ability to play guitar, then I lost my sobriety, then I lost my job, my house, and finally my wife, who is a good woman that anyone would be well pleased to know. I have kids that I want to see, but so far it seems like a rare thing. Soon enough I’ll lose my health insurance, and things will continue to decline. It took six solid years of major depression to finally take its toll on the world outside; inside my suffering has been seemingly without end. I could not hide it anymore, and I knew I was in trouble. Perhaps it is just apropos that the inside now matches the outside, perhaps only now it is possible for me to heal. Perhaps not.

Nothing is certain in this world. It all seems to be a series of accidents, a hodgepodge of chaos mixed with hilarity and horror. For a long time, I thought “why should I believe in You at all? The world I live in doesn’t conform even to my lax standards of decency. People kill and die for you, in all these differing religions, and you permit that. If you exist,” I thought, “You must have a tremendous ego.” Add to that the fact that my solitary spiritual experience came during a psychotic episode, and you have a recipe for doubt.

Still, for reasons unknown to me, my thoughts return to You, over and over again like a broken record, and I wonder what it means. All I know is that I no longer have any confidence in what I know or don’t know, and my recent downturn has shown me that I have little left to brag about or to take for granted.

So, we’ll assume a few things:

1. That You exist.
2. That You take part in our affairs.
3. That, if not explicitly good yourself, you at least allow for good things to happen.
4. That You have some sort of plan for the world, the people, all of it.

That last one is where I always get stuck, but we’re going to give it a shot.

So my question is, if there is a plan, I’d just ask that you give me some small notion of what it is. I”m not asking that you lift me out of depression, I’m not asking you to remake my marriage or even to give me back my job. I’m not even asking to live very much longer. I’m just asking you to please, please set me on a course that I can live with, not to be happy, but neither to be sad. To be glad to be alive again. To play music again, even if it’s only through computers. I’ll accept gratefully anything that you provide and I’ll use it not for personal gain but to help my family and the others out there who have it as bad (or worse) than I do. Now, see, I know I’m doing deal-making, and I know from my childhood that you don’t make deals with God. But I have no other recourse, and I’m not asking for much, after all. Just a clue. It’s so hard to be all alone in this. My wife is no longer there to talk to, and no one has taken her place. So, I need this. I admit partial responsibility for my current situation and have taken steps to remedy things: I have quit drinking altogether. Though I’m just getting started, it’s a good start.

Thanks for listening, if You do that, and I hope You do.

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Life and its long lesson of humility.

I’m going to try and make a serious comment about the latest round of Catholic sex scandals, as it’s something I shouldn’t really care about, being non-religious, and yet somehow I do, being still somewhat sentimental for my Catholic upbringing.

As a Confirmed but irredeemably-lapsed Catholic, I can say that all this recent stuff nevertheless makes me very sad, because (& let’s not underestimate here) by and large the clergy of the Church are doing great work and I personally know many priests who have sacrificed so many decades of their personal lives to serve the Greater Good (yeah, the one with the capital letters) many of whom I have reason to believe are very likely agnostic at best. To be so dedicated to a cause without the easy belief system to back it up (because being a priest is far more of an intellectual pursuit than any other sort of religious vocation that I know of) is just a Herculean task, and the sadness I feel is primarily based upon my acknowledgment that all of this selfless dedication is just so very hard to sustain.

It is just too hard to do, for most people. Poverty, chastity, and obedience…these are the three tenets of the priesthood, and I feel that it is only a matter of time now that these tenets will have to be realigned, not that the vow of chastity per se is the cause of the pedophilia. That would be like saying, as the Right does all the time, that gay people are just one step away from fucking children, horses, or otherwise breaking all manner of sordid taboos. No, the way I see it, any profession that requires such austerity as a cost of entry is simply going to be infiltrated with people who are either trying too hard to escape their demons, or else are bluntly looking for a way to game the system. And with the easy authority that being a priest provides, it is reasonable to suppose that some of these guys have willfully pursued such a vocation with that kind of betrayal in mind, though I’m sure that in most cases it isn’t consciously regarded in such stark terminology.

So in order to get past this disaster (and it is a disaster: my own family, I’m sure is simply horrified by the whole years-long saga), in order to attract a more healthy seminarian I think the Vatican has no other choice than to break with the old traditions and just let the clergy start to behave more like the humans they are. I think, for starters, they’ll see a huge upswing in the number of people heading for the convent (and make no mistake, this would be a huge plus for them, as there has been a perennial decline in the number of young priests entering the field). There will, of course, be a serious backlash from the hardliners who all these years later still have a bone to pick for the 2nd Vatican Council, and they may even see another orthodoxical split as a result…….. But the alternative, I fear, is either slow and steady irrelevance to the requirements of the times or, as a worst case, eventual dissolution, and if that were to happen, I must say that even though I’m not really much for religious dogma, I’m willing to wager it would begin something of a societal decline, if not here than particularly in some of the poorer South American countries, which would be very hard to pivot out of through secularization.  I say this with all respect to the Humanists I have known.  I mean, hey, I’m on that team myself, but that doesn’t mean I necessarily think the rest of the world is quite so ready for a open-ended view of life as the one I hold dear.

It really is a very big deal, and I don’t feel that, based on his response so far, Benedict is anything other than a company man. The Church is in need of a real moral leader, and unfortunately it does not seem to have one at the moment.

The Path of I DUNNO.

Well, it’s probably no big surprise to anyone who would read these thoughts that the thinker of them has pretty much always been, and to this day remains a sort of accidental agnostic.  Despite years of catechism and confirmation training in the Catholic church (years which I feel were well-spent, although not inasmuch as it turned me into a person of great faith), and despite many many years of personal prayer and reflection, fpr me there simply is no other path but the path of I DUNNO.

My mother always quietly wonders to herself what it would take to shake me out of this nonsense.  I can’t answer that, because I’ve had epiphanic experiences before; I’ve already had astounding insights into the nature of all things.  Some of these things were religious in nature, but most were not: in the end, they sort of all blend together, and serve only to heighten the mystery and grandeur of the world. (And make no mistake, the world is grand, even sitting here in my den with America’s Next Top Model droning in the background:  there is a thing which permeates even the most mundane experiences: is that God?  I rather think not.  Maybe it’s God’s afterglow, some Most Glorious Vapour left in His wake, after He got the universe in gear, observed coolly for a few epochs of time, and then left us to our own decisions. That is the sort of God I always imagine, right or wrong.

But anyway, I started reading a bit of Jefferson’s Bible the other day, and so far have found it to be a very good retelling of the Gospels from one of the true Great Men of Antiquity. My first thought after reading the first chapter, when Mary and Joseph come to Bethlehem to pay taxes (leaving out whole swaths of apochryphal detail, such as the dramatic Annunciation of Gabriel and the miraculous transmission of the Star of David) and to attend to the practical details of the birth of their son, was to think, “Good grief, and I thought I was irreverent, TJ must have the world’s biggest gonads to have written this thing!”  Then I found that he had compiled for his own personal use, and it was not published until after his death, and things started making more sense.  Jefferson displays a sort of intellectual rigor at which a modern man can only marvel:  he compiled this text from many different versions of the Bible, in four different languages, until he got the version he liked best.  The end result is a retelling of Jesus’ life as it would have read if he were simply a protohistorical version of Mohandas Ghandi: virtuous, admirable, intellectual, and at last only human.  However, to my mind the “only human” part is the understatement of the century; I can say with fair certainty that I have personally never met a human like Jesus (or Ghandhi for that matter).

Anyway, it’s a little known book but worth the reading.


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Currently Reading:

Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame - Charles Bukowski

Currently Listening:

Mr. Bungle - California

Why, yes, I am cool as a cucumber in a bowl of hot sauce.

You lika de juice????