Look Out

February 5, 2010|In General

I’ve never had much use for religion. My parents were not religious. It wasn’t that we were atheists. We had some sort of generalised belief that there was something more than this. It just seemed wrong to deny that there was more than the life we have. Like we would be eliminating the idea of possibilities.

Even so, I am still a person raised in the West, and Judæo-Christian framing is part of my world view, if only because it has been the one I’ve been most often exposed to. I was also raised in a relatively nonjudgmental fashion (who are you to think you’re better than they are?), and I’ve been grateful for that, though to say I am unbiased and nonjudgmental would be a lie. Life after you grow up shapes you in ways you never expected, but if your parents do the job right, they instill you with values that will carry you through your life. If you choose to listen to them.

The unfortunate part is that we’re not all instilled with the same values. Unfortunate not because one set of beliefs is inherently better than another, but because we’re all stupid enough to think that our beliefs are better than the other guy’s and we’re willing to back it up with force. In their benign forms, all the world’s religions are about tolerance and understanding and living within the law of humanity so that we can grow and live lives of peace. If you are a person of faith living in that context, all the power to you. It’s a source of great strength, I’m sure.

Look at us, though. We’re all in the process of swallowing our tongues while someone offers us a glass of water. It’s a holy war so that we can live in peace and freedom, and we’re on the right side. God is on our side because we have the right religion. Which religion? Fundamentalist Christianity and fundamentalist Islam bear little difference from each other. Each side continues to ramp up the rhetoric and the oppression, forcing ever-more-rigid interpretations of scripture that gives no one a chance to take a step back and compromise gracefully. Americans put bible code on their rifle scopes, and their opponents believe paradise and virgins await them in death. But we are fighting because our world is shrinking. The peaceful ideas of faith continue to be used to justify aggression.

I believe that we are born for a reason. Born into a world created by something intelligent because it wanted to understand what it means to live a physical life. We come back time after time until we are done, and we take back what we learn here – all the love, hate, triumph, failure, joy and pain; all that we are – and rejoin what we left behind.

Life as a human being is about living. We own nothing. We only ever rent. We have no power save that to affect those around us. And in that, we can strive to be benevolent, or we can exploit. All the justifications we use as humans come into play when we exploit, however small that action may be, but we need no justification when we choose to see the world through another person’s eyes and realise what we and they need. In that context, it becomes very hard to exploit without realising that we hurt ourselves far more by saying our needs and wants supersede another’s.

We’re doing a pretty crappy job of living up to what human can really mean. By putting so much of our belief in external forces we think are beyond our control – whether it be religion, government or current trend – we kill ourselves two-fold: first by denying ourselves the strength and creativity that is born inside each and every one of us; and second by setting ourselves up to be manipulated by those that would attach their own agendas to a God’s will with action to be taken in their name, defined as righteous and good, with little accountability to the true consequences of those actions.

Too many times we get caught up looking to the sky for deliverance and favour, and below when we fear judgment. Whatever you wish to call the idea of universal intelligence – the thing that created our universe – it seems ridiculous to me to worry about what it thinks or what it wants. It’s obvious, isn’t it? It wants us to live our lives. It wants us to be human. That’s what we’re supposed to be. That’s why we were put here. If we were meant to know what is beyond the veil, we’d know. If what created us was never physical, how can we expect our physical brains to comprehend it? How can we accept timeless infinity when we still look for the moment the universe exploded into being or deny even that by saying it was created from nothing by a patriarch a few thousand years ago? So long as we search for understanding through the lens of our own limitations we shall never find it.

I am not religious, nor am I spiritual, but I am willing to take it on faith that life has purpose and that it is the greatest gift to be here on this planet for however long I am to be here. It’s got nothing to do with the politics, economy and societal disintegration that surround me – the things that press on me in my middle years – and it certainly has nothing to do with what people tell me I should do, or what I should believe.

So, look out. Look out to the horizon because it is what is in front of you. This is where we are right now. This is what we are right now. We are not going to ascend to the heavens, nor are we going to be damned to the pit. But we shall all leave here soon enough to be what we will be then, and what will we wish to remember of our time here? We can be anything that a human can be. And while that is humbling if you think of one life among billions, it should also say that in each of us there are possibilities that are only limited by our courage and will to bring them to life.


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