“There is not sufficient love and goodness in the world to permit us to give some of it away to imaginary beings.” — Frederich Nietzsche
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always struggled with the ability to be confident in my word, never wanting to be confined to some self-principle or hindered by some type of moral dogma. When it came to matters of faith, I never felt truly cemented in one way of worship over another. Being born into a middle class white family in New England, I have always been offered the choice to expand into whichever direction I so choose. For the most part it was pretty straight forward: I was told that there was a God, not to use his name in vain, and not to misbehave or I would go to Hell; that was about it. For most children, that would be enough; but I am not, and have never been, like most children. I remember being as young as seven or eight and having thoughts so existential that it actually astonishes me looking back on them now. I would contemplate all different forms of metaphysical concepts such as death, the afterlife, the origin of the universe, and would quite literally do this for hours on end. Back then, and even today, I feel that if you stare into someone’s pupils for long enough you can see into their very soul. Now I wasn’t one of those weird kids who didn’t have any friends and sat alone at recess killing ants; I was fairly social. Even thinking about death now scares the living shit out of me; it was just what interested me. I remember thinking about what it would have felt like when the big bang had occurred and visualizing an explosion in a dark void only comparable to videos of nuclear bombs during World War II. The thing that always got me about reincarnation was how painful it was to realize that you could live an entire other life at any point in time and not be with someone you love; be it a parent, a sibling, a best friend, an animal companion, or really anyone else that you couldn’t imagine your life without. Eventually these thoughts were replaced with worries about missing that week’s Cartoon countdown, or if I had forgotten to do another homework assignment, or some other irrelevant distraction.
My senior year of high school was definitely one for the books. During a transitional time when I had begun to isolate myself from my social sphere, I took a comparative religions course that focused on everything from conventional Western religions such as Judaism and Islamism, to non-conventional systems of belief such as Native American tribal culture, to Eastern belief systems such as Taoism and Zoroastrianism. As someone who never had a true religious affinity, each new way of thinking fascinated me as I attempted to rewire my brain to match whatever it was I was learning that week. What I realized was that, although these different theologies all had differing beliefs and customs, they all shared many of the same key stories and principles. By looking at a timeline of historical events throughout a specific culture and analyzing different myths and legends, it became apparent who had obtained which stories from who. Unfortunately the more I studied each different theological system, the more I found reasons that I did not agree with their way of thinking. I did not think that a God would punish his people for living a life of indulgence as long as it was free of harm to others, or that he would wish for one to sacrifice himself for the good of the many. Although I have never found myself to be a true believer in what we know as God today, I have always felt that there was something deeper within each of us that felt more pure and natural than what modern religion tells us to believe. While so many are looking outside of themselves for the answers they seek, I looked within. Yes I did meditate, but I did not pull a Buddha and meditate for forty-nine days. Though over time my mind began to recall the thoughts that were once so present in my youth, it now possessed new experiences to help better assess them.
What always got to me about organized religion was the fact that there are so many recorded stories of recognized contradictions that individuals blindly follow even when it has shown to go against their better judgement. Emerson couldn’t have said it better when he said that “Consistent thinking is the hobgoblin of little minds.” It’s almost as if people are afraid to admit that there is one thing wrong, and if they do, the whole system of worship is thrown out of wack. Were Adam & Eve the first two humans? Highly unlikely unless we are all the product of incest. Did Jesus really turn water to wine? If he did, someone needs to tell me how he did it. In all seriousness, this has always caused me to feel like an ally to each theological system but never more than a guest. It wasn’t until someone described Buddhism to me as a “philosophy” rather than another type of religion that I felt that I was on the right path. I began to let go, to focus more on the now rather than the when. For the next few months I would hike as often as I could, sometimes being in the woods from morning to night as I allowed my mind to explore freely through it’s own depths. Over this time I became more acquainted with myself, learning what things I held of value and what things were little more than shimmering mirages.
“Dreams are the seedlings of reality.” — James Allen
One day as I embarked on yet another hike I decided to meditate in an attempt to record what I imagined onto paper so I could try to inspire my friends to pursue their own introspective journey. Now when I meditate, I almost feel as if I am dreaming. It’s as if you are knocking on the door of your subconscious and are only allowed a brief visit; but only if you’re willing to answer the door for yourself. You know what you know and you know what you don’t, so I believe that by looking at symbolism and cultural meaning of certain things one sees, you can better understand their authentic views. As I sat there with my eyes fluttering behind their lids, I witnessed a variety of images ranging from white tigers to snakes, from a conversation between two medieval court barons (one tall and thin and one small and bulbous), to the discovery of a cathedral encased in vines. As I entered the cathedral, I heard a voice not different from my own but not entirely the same. It told me to be confident in my word, to focus more on my time in this world as much as I could. It was not my friends who saw what I saw, but me, so what was the importance of sharing something they could never understand. I didn’t think anything of it until later that day when I was given a pack of dream symbolism cards from my mom, one of which stating that the discovery of a religious building in a dream is the discovery of, “The temple of your higher self”, while one covered in vines or some other vegetation “indicates a lack of a religious affinity.”
From that point I faced the world with the upmost optimism and idealism, believing that anything thought could be achieved. It was a positive perspective, but not a realistic one. Over the last few years I have still maintained some extent of my optimism, but the tides of life have definitely dampened it. My idealism still lingers but has been highly tainted by realism. I have delved more into philosophy as I have found it to be a comforting meeting ground between logic and spirituality as I have finally begun to realize why faith is so important to so many people. Faith is what we have when we have nothing left; what we turn to when all other options seem depleted. It gives us comfort when the future we face is the unknown with no one around to catch us. But God was not there for me when I fell; he did not lift my spirits when I needed aid. So if there is no God, what is there to take his place? To quote Frederich Nietzsche, “God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.” It was not a quick death. It was slow, meticulous, and more than likely premeditated. As much as we do not like to admit it, man is self-destructive. He finds that which aids him the most and he rips it out by the roots and burns it. There is no God to give our faith to, no one to save us when the world goes to shit. We can not rely solely on the aid of others, but must place our faith in ourselves. Look within for answers, and you will find them. If you do not hear them, it is because you have not yet learned how to listen.