The essence of all religions is one. Only their approaches are different. -Gandhi

I’ve been thinking about religion a lot lately. I’ve spent my entire life referring to myself as a Christian, but it’s starting to dawn on me that I barely have a clue as to what that means. I know that I have faith in something more than this existence, but that’s true of pretty much every religion. The utter hypocrisy of declaring membership to this belief system when I have never actually read the Bible in its entirety doesn’t sit well with me. It’s also occurred to me that what I have learned has encouraged me to suppress certain curiosities and has encouraged me to view the world as innately patriarchal, both of which I disagree with as a general rule.

I think faith should be a celebration and a source of peace and I’ve struggled to find those things of late. I know it’s kind of the trend to not really believe in anything, but I’ve always felt like having faith in something was important and so I have decided maybe my faith needs to be restructured rather than discarded. So I’m throwing out the rules. I’ve always believed that all paths lead to the same place, but I’ve never actually found the courage to follow my own path, rather than taking the standard one laid out before me. I don’t fit into the standard size box and I don’t think I have to. Faith isn’t one size fits all. And yet I’ve let myself be boxed into something not quite comfortable because of fear of some kind of lasting punishment. Just seems wrong. So I’m going to find a way to believe and to celebrate my spirituality in a way that fits in with the core of who I am. I’m trying to remind myself that if I don’t fault other people for the way they believe, then I shouldn’t fault myself for trying to find my own way. Ultimately I think it will be a worthwhile undertaking. I want a faith that fits me, not one that I have to try to pretzel myself into fitting. And I have to believe that that’s acceptable.

I came across the quote, “An it harm none, do as you will,” while I was reading, and I think it’s a pretty solid rule to start with. I don’t know where my path will take me or how I will identify when I reach the end of it, but I feel certain that however I journey, I will inevitably reach the same peak as everyone else. That said, it occurs to me that it would be fair to ask why bother with finding your own path in the first place if you’ll end up the same place regardless, but it seems to me that it’s kind of like walking through life in clothes that are too small. The end result is that you’re not naked, but wouldn’t it be nicer to be not naked in clothes that fit perfectly? 

And so off I go to hit the books. First stop, The Book of God by Walter Wangerin. Gotta love when someone can put the Bible in novel format. I know many argue that you miss the subtleties when you simplify the reading, but I’d say that putting the material in a format that is easier to digest makes people more apt to actually read it. At least people like me who would rather focus on the story that the language.

I could go for some more reading suggestions, though. I find I’m especially interested in learning more about Hinduism, so if anyone knows of a book that provides a good overview, that would be awesome. I still feel a great deal of certainty re: my chosen deity, but I’d like to find a way to believe that fits in more with who I am, and from what I’ve read, Hinduism might actually be a good fit for that. That said, I’m open to other ideas. Ultimately, faith is deeply personal to me, but right now I am finding myself in a stage of evolution and value the insight of others who see the world differently.  I’m not really up for starting a debate on who’s right and who’s wrong- that defeats my purpose right now- but I’d love to be able to discuss ideas and beliefs in an open and non-judgmental way with anyone inclined to do so. So for all ten or so of you that randomly check in with this blog- fire away if you have thoughts or opinions or expertise or suggestions. I’d certainly appreciate it. 🙂

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I believe forgiveness is the key to your unhappiness.

I just took the trippiest little jaunt down memory lane. I spent the last hour reading journal entries from ten years ago. It’s amazing how intensely you feel things when you’re just starting out. I sat and read and remembered so much. And I shook my head at the little girl I was a fair amount of times. Current me just wants to reach back and shake old me and tell her that some people aren’t worth jumping through hoops for and that forgiveness doesn’t have to equal forgetting. But mostly current me was overwhelmed with a wave of affection for old me. Old me was making a lot of mistakes and doing a lot of silly things, but she was also falling in love and making memories and dancing sparkly dances. Sometimes I look back at myself in such a damning way, feeling so stupid to have made the mistakes I made, but tonight was different. Tonight I remembered myself and it felt kind of healing. I remembered the girl who was broken to pieces over her first love choosing someone else and  who went a little crazy then, but I also remembered the girl who had stars in her eyes and still knew with complete certainty that she was going to be someone special. She felt everything so profoundly that every single day was full to the brim with life. And that’s where my affection for her comes from. She may have made poor decisions on occasion, but she also made some pretty solid ones now and then. She exemplified loyalty and forgiveness, probably to a fault, but she really believed that friendship could overcome insurmountable odds. And, despite all evidence to the contrary, she was sure that happily ever after would find her.

I may have messed up, but it seems to me I wasn’t such a bad kid after all. After all this time spent in self-flagellation, it’s a real relief to look back and know that it wasn’t all bad. To know that nothing was ever that simple. Even at my worst, I never completely wrote off my future self. Old me never stopped believing in the healing power of dancing and kisses and swinging on the swings and, y’know, in spite of everything, I’m kind of impressed with her for that.

Extra! Extra! Angel marathon leads to moral ambiguity mini-rant!!!

As a newly minted freelancer, I would be a liar if I didn’t admit to playing catch up with my old friend Netflix when life gets slow, the idea of yet another job search becomes too depressing for words, and I’m fresh out of spanking new ideas to blog about. Today Netflix surprised me with a story that struck me as very intriguing.

The players are a girl, a boy, and a man. The man is the villain. He tried to kill the girl. The girl is the victim. She has suffered at the hands of the villain. The boy is the hero. He wants to save the girl. The interesting thing to me is how the roles change based on the choices they make and the choices that are made for them. The girl wants to kill the man, but the boy wants to prevent her from doing so and save her from becoming a killer. This could be possible if the girl hadn’t already taken steps to ensure that the man’s death is inevitable. He is going to die no matter what. Even so, at the last moment, the boy steps in and performs the fatal blow. 

So then, who is the victim and who is the villain and are there even any heroes left in the story? The girl starts as victim, but in seeking retribution does she become villain or has she taken on the challenge of being her own hero? And in dying in a manner similar to how he killed others, does the man become the victim? Do the scales of justice re-balance in an eye for an eye way or is he always just the villain? As for the boy, is he still a hero because his motives were pure, or does he become the villain because he took a life? Or maybe he becomes a victim because chivalry spurred him to do the unthinkable to protect the girl and in doing so he became what he despised. The story line can’t resolve because the players no longer know what roles they are playing. And that is the part that is intriguing.

If we can’t define ourselves, if we don’t know what role we are playing, it’s hard to resolve our own story. And yet time keeps moving and whether we actively participate or not, we’re pretty much all marching onward to our inevitable resolution.

In addition to ruminating a bit on how we are defined by choices, I have been reflecting a bit on moral ambiguity and on how we determine right and wrong. Do we know something is wrong because we have always been taught that it is wrong, or is there some intrinsic knowledge of the universe we are born with that helps us to avoid moral uncertainty? Maybe it’s some combination of both. The big questions come up and they’re not always easy to answer. So how do we eventually settle on our own moral compass? And how do we allow that compass to evolve as we evolve? There are a lot of reasons I was reflecting on this, personally, but an example that occurred to me as a way of illustrating the broader question was one I’m more familiar with. I’ve always defined myself as a Christian. I have also defined myself as not heterosexual for the entirety of my adult life. But many that subscribe to the teachings of Christianity say that if it’s not hetero, it’s a big no no in the eyes of the big guy. So, how is that apparent conflict resolved? Tough question. And one that doesn’t have an easy answer. Lots of soul searching and tears and angst happened before I found some peace with that aspect of myself, but I still can’t easily explain the hows or the whys. Lately, though, my reflections have taken me down a bit of a different path in terms of moral ambiguity. I can’t say I’m questioning my faith, because I still feel a very deep certainty as far as that goes. I think what I am questioning is the limitations imposed upon us by those professing to have a direct line to heaven. I find myself very uncertain about some of the rules and regulations. I get the big ones. Totally. Don’t kill people and all that jazz. It’s the little ones that I find myself taking issue with. I feel like if we could have a direct translation of the big book, the story we’d hear might be a lot different than the one we’ve been told.

“All we can confess of what we are has in it the defeat of isolation– If not our own, then someone’s, anyway.”

“Regarding your lifestyle, it is not something I condone or support or agree with.”

I have read those words several times and I am still struggling to understand them. I don’t spend a lot of time writing about my personal experiences with homophobia and bigotry, largely because I have not been on the receiving end of a lot of it, at least not in a deeply personal way. But you see, my best friend wrote those words to me. And while I can’t say I didn’t expect it, somehow seeing it in writing still has me reeling. I guess the reality is that this person has not been my best friend for a long time, yet I hesitated to ask the question that would cement that truth as permanent. But last week I decided enough was enough. I was going to send one last message and then I was going to let go. I don’t think I expected to hear back. I almost wish I hadn’t. I wonder if it’s less heartbreaking to learn by omission.

I actually intended to start getting in some serious writing this month, to start pulling together my thoughts into something a bit more cohesive, but after I received that message, I was overwhelmed with anxiety every time I thought about writing. I guess I was afraid of what might come out. I still am, really, but I can either let this marinate in me like poison or I can try to find the words to say goodbye.

And therein lies the difficulty. I didn’t ask for this goodbye. I didn’t want it. All I wanted to hear was that the reason we don’t talk much anymore has everything to do with her being busy with family and nothing to do with my choosing to marry a woman. I have been out and proud SINCE THE DAY WE MET. Nothing about that has changed, except that I’m legally married to a woman now. Woo freaking hoo. Who I am married to has zero impact on the content of my character. So I don’t understand it. And I am hurt and I am angry and I feel completely bewildered as to how I am supposed to respond. Or IF I even should. And it kills me because if some random on the street said something like that to me, I would have no shortage of words with which to respond. And I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to use all of them. But now it’s personal and painful.

You’d think it’s be NBD. I mean, plenty of people said horrid things about my wife and me all over the internet when the farm story broke. You’d think after that barrage of vitriolic garbage, I’d be immune to something so small. Apparently that is not the case. So my apologies to any of you out there reading this horribly stilted and awkward blog. The truth is, words are failing me and I don’t know how to deal with that.

You know, I considered writing back or blogging or doing something with words in the heat of the moment, right after I read the message, but I curbed that impulse. I worried that I would use the wrong words and do irreparable damage. But the damage was already done and the only thing I managed to do was lose what words I had for dealing with this. I regret that. The words I had then might not have been perfect, but at least they would have been true. 

I guess this week’s lesson about being a grown up is that you shouldn’t ask the question if you aren’t ready for the answer.