My dog died last week bringing thoughts of my mortality to the front of my mind. It’s sad enough he died, but he died from the same crap that will probably do me in. So that stung just a bit more. I told you that he was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy and heart failure in the previous week and how he had to start taking some of the same heart meds as me. You can read about it here.
My problem with death is the same one billions of others have; I have no idea what happens after. There’s a lot of promises of what will happen, but no one has been there and come back and told us what it’s all about. At least no one I’ve personally met.
Mattering who I am listening to; when I die I could go to heaven, go to hell, be reincarnated, become a spirit that haunts the world, have my soul become part of the cosmos, turn into fertilizer, and hundreds of other possibilities. Who the hell do I believe?
Many people I know have faith in their beliefs to the point of not fearing death. I don’t understand that. I fear death. I do not want to die. If it’s fertilizer I turn into and all this has been for nothing but to support the ecosystem, I don’t want to die. If I am turned into a chicken and have no memory of my earlier life and my life will be short and ended with the Colonel’s axe and his eleven herbs and spices, I do not want to die.
It’s that great unknown, that little doubtful voice that says maybe it’s nothing, that gives me the chills. When I was in highschool, taking self prescribed medications, some nights I would lie down, stare up at the stars, and try to figure it all out.
Journey of Discovery
One night, when these self prescribed medications were influencing me, I spent several hours staring at the stars and discussing with friends man’s early confusion with how the world works and how they used Gods to comfort them when this lack of knowledge gave them fear. There were Rain Gods, Thunder Gods, Sun Gods, Moon Gods, Flood Gods, Gods of War, Fertility Gods, my favorite, and many more. Our conversation continued. My friends had become quiet and they seemed mesmerized. Good medications can keep an audience just ask any member of Fish if you don’t believe me. I told them how as man developed science and learning these Gods fell by the wayside. I am sure this was not an original thought, but that night it was new to me.
The Greeks lost Zeus their greatest God, God of the sky. The Romans lost Neptune God of the sea as the Greeks lost their Sea God, Posiden. It was quite an adventure. They both lost Apollo Son of Zeus. The Sun God who went away every night leaving behind darkness and fear.
What happened to all these great and powerful Gods? Who took them away from us? Did we get a refund for all the devastation they gave us, the famines, the wars, the hate, and more? The simple answer is that they fell by the way-side as we learned more about our world. The more we learned and understood our world the less fear we had, and without fear we needed less Gods to make sense of what we didn’t know, but it wasn’t just that.
Gods + Religion = Money
Ancient Gods where punishing. If you weren’t good they punished you. If you hit your sister a God might take your gold coin, the one that was in your toga pocket, that had to be the reason it was gone, because it was right in your pocket where you left it and you never lose anything wearing your toga.
On a bigger scale if a village didn’t give enough to Pompeii Aid for volcano victims being run by Roman priests they may be threatened with or even actually have a flood, a drought, and suffer, boy did priests love natural disasters. The priests would say something like, “We’ll be needing a new temple and all the gold you can fit in it if you want us to talk to the Gods and have them cut it out and by the way it’s time to collect two virgins for sacrifice. Seriously we want two virgins and once we “Purify” them we will sacrifice them.” I’m paraphrasing here, but do you think the priests might be hiding something there?
So it wasn’t just making Gods up to help cope with the unknown, it was also a money-making machine. One that is still filling the coffers of some very righteous people and institutions. As we are experiencing present day, it is hard to dismantle massive money-making machines even when they’re bad for society.
People in general know right from wrong. We have been able to form fair laws that treat people in a humane way. There is still many problems with these self-governing experiments around the world, but they are improving. As they get fairer and more consistent the need of religious leaders to keep us civil lowers. This secular movement scares the Hell out of religions and they are fighting back. What are their weapons, the fear of the unknown(death) and our ignorance? Can they win the fight? Only if we let them.
Present day almost all religions are down to one God. There doesn’t seem to be the need for more now. So does this last fear, the fear of death save religions? Will a scientist crack the death code? Will it be explained by a multi-verse, reincarnation, a God? I don’t know and I’m thinking no one alive today does. Does my doubt make me an atheist that doesn’t believe in anything, staying good only by my secular beliefs? I ask myself that all the time and the answer is no.
I believe in something, I’m just not sure what it is. In my mind the beginning of time has to be preceded by something. I don’t believe something comes from nothing. On the other hand everything has to start somewhere and somehow. How do you find the beginning of the beginning? Thinking about such concepts for too long hurts my head.
I can’t believe that whatever and whenever this something started it was designed to have no end. I’ve read scientist theorizing about the edge of the Universe where existence ends, but I can’t picture something not on the other side of everything. So that concept hurts my head too.
I feel that my ability to think is on purpose and not a mistake as is everything in life. I also fear that ability is just another instrument in the cycle of life. Leaving my leftovers to be nothing but fuel and energy for something else to keep the Universe going. In my mind it isn’t that simple. I remain unsettled thinking my existence, all the thoughts I’ve had, and all the actions I’ve taken, only took place through my body so some worms can get fed so the eco-system doesn’t collapse.
To be worm food is not a high calling, but if my existence is a piece needed so the system can continue for the loved ones I’ll leave behind, how could I question that? Still I can’t get past the soul thing. I can’t believe all that is just gone. This could just be the hopeful wishes of someone afraid to die, but I still can’t believe that the energy and life-force that sustains me stop at death. Even if it doesn’t become something, I can’t believe it becomes nothing.
I really don’t know how to resolve all this in my mind. I have spent some time in churches looking for answers. Unfourtunately I always run into a deal breaker. Some churches said if people weren’t members of their particular church they couldn’t go to heaven no matter what good works they did or do. Others insisted I had to give a certain percentage of my money to belong. I listened to others rail against the evil of anyone different then them. Some of the churches I’ve visited are some of the most prejudiced institutions I have met. So churches have rarely brought me solace and as I’ve gotten older I sure am looking for some solace.
What should I do?
First thing is I do believe there are forces that we don’t understand that exist. Forces and existences beyond any of our imaginations. I do believe there is a power greater than me and any or all humans that do and have existed. I have come to that belief because I know if it was left up to people to run this universe it probably would be already gone.
It took me a long time to figure out what to call this power that I have come to accept as real. The churches had tainted the word God for me so I didn’t go there. If I had a God it would never be like any of the Gods I have been introduced to. The Gods I’ve seen are vengeful. They at times created wars and victimized whole sections of our civilization. Religions have destroyed as much as they’ve built and splinter the very people they are here to comfort. Those religions and their God’s would not work for me. Don’t get me wrong, I am not completely soured on all religion. If there was a religion that followed Jesus Christ’s true teachings I might be able to support it.
This higher power that I have opened my life to has allowed, not made, great changes to happen in my life. Without being responsible for controlling the world I suddenly found time to work on me. It changed how I see and react to the world. I no longer have a driving insistence and have learned the beauty of acceptance. I no longer go nuts trying to make people, places, and things be the way I want them. I patiently accept the way they are and adjust to reality. I, by no means, am in a constant state of bliss, but life continues to improve as I work on accepting the world as it is.
It is so much easier to adjust me than to try to change the world. This freeing transformation could not have happened for me if I didn’t finally submit to the theory of a higher power. I know this sounds very 12 steppish, but, for me, it is true and it is an important part of me getting to a place where I have some serenity.
I can’t go back to my old ways. This feels too good. I don’t want to go around talking about my higher power, people look at me strangely when I do that. I have begun to find happiness but this generic, vague higher power still left me unfulfilled. Somehow I had to come to peace with what the higher power that was saving my life actually was. I needed to name my higher power.
I didn’t know what to do. It seemed this higher power was my “God”, but I don’t like what the term “God” represents. I didn’t find any answers anywhere. It always came back to God and I didn’t want to go there.
One day a friend told me a story of his struggle with a higher power. He explained that he knew he needed a higher power. He knew he had to turn his will over to one if he were ever to find peace, but he wanted nothing to do with a God. He was agnostic at best. He reached out to another man who told him to go home and write what he thought God should be. He said he went home and wrote down things like benevolent, kind, generous, sympathetic, strong, understanding……
When he came back to his friend and gave him the list his friend said, “There. There is your God. Your higher power.” I heard this and it stunned me. What a concept. My God didn’t have to be one that someone else made up, defined, or invented. I could define my God. My God could be anything I wanted. My God could be kind, gentle, and loving. My God never had to be negative or vengeful. My God could be a God of acceptance bringing people together, not a divisive God that brought war. My God could be the Jesus Christ that preached love and acceptance.
Then I looked up the definition of God in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. It says, and I quote, “the Being perfect in power, wisdom, and goodness who is worshipped as creator and ruler of the universe.” That’s it. Exactly what I wanted my God to be and now that I know that my God is anything I want him to be, I can wrap my head around this.
So there it is, how I found God. Nothing sexy and nothing scary or evil, just one person slowly coming to peace with the world around him. Not much physically has changed around me. I still have all the same things. I still go to all the same places, and I still deal with all the same people. None of my problems have disappeared.
The difference is that now I am not responsible for everything, just my behavior. I can’t help how someone or something is, there’s a higher power I call God that does that. I just have to be responsible for how I react to them. deal with them, and how I feel about them. I no longer insist the world be the way I want it, it never will. I accept how it is and am learning to live in harmony with that.
I thank God that I no longer need to worry about controlling the world. Peace has found another home and I am it.