Saturday, March 13, 2010

Almost-All Family Reunion 2009

Ruminations on being 70

OK, so about a year ago I vented about computers. I'll never be a geek, although I did manage to get around that particular problem.

Now, from the ridiculous to the sublime. This time, two days after my 60th birthday -- which means I'm 70, I realized with a shock) -- I'm posting some of the Big Thoughts/Questions I've been having. Some have rattled my fevered brain for a very long time and likely will never be answered. But I'm posting them to invite comment because I am always enriched by others' perspective! (Well, almost always; I'm not always the most receptive listener.)

I first wrote this (and some more) to Barbara Crafton, an Episcopal priests whose "Almost Daily eMos" I signed up for. They're wonderful -- she's a talented writer with a perceptive eye/mind and that rarest (I think, anyway) of gifts -- the ability to pragmatically discuss the concepts of "religion." The most recent email discussed time - wow, what timing, for me! - and prompted me to send off a long, rambling response to her. I hope she doesn't drop me from the eMo list!

But, here's the gist of the message. All input welcome!

In the innocence of my childhood and beyond, I have experienced the malleability of time. The first was a dream I had one night about a girl I didn't know, but then saw the next day at the local pool. When I told my mom about it, she said not a word, which surprised me; a devout Catholic, I expected her to warn me it was the devil -- but it was so extraordinary that I couldn't let it pass unmentioned. It was only later that I found out her mother was the Tarot reader for the Swiss village in which she grew up and mom, in her own Catholic way, likely had and ignored that talent herself. So, I accepted that time is a human invention and never paid much attention to it (often to my rue, when it came to my career.)

Similarly, coming to the conclusion as a recovering Catholic that I rather agreed with Marx's opinion of "religion" as an opiate and method of control, I concluded instead that we are all bits of an incomprehensible energy stream that we call "God." That allowed me to be spiritually attuned without being continuously enraged by the sheer stupidity of institutional "religions." It also married well with the logic of reincarnation -- and made me feel less guilty about not living up to my karmic potential when I recalled the alleged calculation by the Buddha that he had 1500 more lifetimes to go. (Might be a myth, but I've clung to it!)

But when our two daughters arrived, I again became confused about the relative benefits and drawbacks of churches. While on the one hand, I acknowledged the benefits, including: 1) a feeling of connectedness and community; 2) 'religion' is just about the only way the right side of the brain gets any attention at all in our society, except perhaps for the arts; and somehow, miraculously, it does open the door to those occasional marvelous mystical moments you mentioned, and 3) it provides the social authority to support the ethical lessons taught children. On the other hand, institutionalized religion involves so much political junk, so insulting to the brain we were born with that gives us the conscious glimpse of those mystical moments -- that I/we just could never find a sufficiently balanced church.

So, like Tevya, we concluded there was no other hand, and no church for our girls. But then again, they are growing up to be wonderful human beings with really good hearts, so I am satisfied, if a little sad that they likely have not yet been helped to have that glimpse of eternity that I don't know how to guide them to.

So -- eternity, bringing me to my point (about which by now I'm guessing you've been wondering). It's only been now, realizing I'm in "my last third," that my teenaged questions of "why am I here?" have returned -- along with chagrin that it's taken me this long to seriously pose the question. It's so easy to just drift through life. I'm unsure of the answer. It involves responsibility to myself (my therapist wished me a happy 60th and told me it was about time to have the childhood I never really had); to "God," to develop the talents I was ''given" (think I've done that to a respectable degree) and to use them to benefit the world (well, maybe some of that); to my very nontraditional family members, all of whom we all share lessons; and then, to those I'll never meet but whose spheres the ripples of my existence reach.

So, it's taken me this long of chewing on my thoughts to guess I don't have a point. Rather, I have more questions. Dang!

Is the point to live consciously, all the time (is that possible?); or is it to just notice the lessons as they come along (from where and why?) and try to respond well to them -- i.e., being more God-like, more in tune with that cosmic current? Is the single benefit of "time" to remind us that there's a perceived limit to that concept and nudge us along? Is our brain really a tool to detect one part of that incredible (truest sense of the word) stream, or is it more of a limiting factor (the Catholic church's traditional premise before Bibles were printed and, I suspect, still current.) Are we are better off to disengage it to "feel the spirit" -- i.e., charismaticism and fundamentalism? (Oh, dear, don't get me started on the "f" word!) I just can't/never have been able to accept that. Is there any way to really use our corpus callosum to link our emotional and intellectual aspects, and isn't that really the wholeness and power that our limited perception envisions as "God?" Isn't that ... uh, evolution? ... and is "heaven" getting past Buddha's 1500, and to what?

Do you believe that, reader? And if so, why do Christians keep talking about Jesus so much instead of what he represented/conveyed? I have to admit, it’s just a struggle for me to resist eye rolls when I hear someone talk about “my Savior.” A young California ‘guru’ named Patricia Sun once said, it's like having a profound mystical experience while sitting on a rock in the woods and being asked upon return "What rock? By what tree?" Why do churches still focus more on the (Single, One, True, but different people) Messenger than the message?

(In our search for churches I once found a gay/lesbian church with two women ministers. Bonanza! I should've felt so comfortable, but complained when I got home about how they just kept talking about Jesus this and Jesus that. My partner just stared at me before commenting, "Uh, honey, it is a Christian church." Guess I should've gotten the message from their name, "Christ Covenant," huh?)

Have to admit, there are times I'm not the sharpest tack in the box.