Listen. This post got a little too long and wound up being all about religion and faith and the philosophy therein. This is my blog, my belief system, and my external processing. Please, if you feel the need to leave some comment about how I'm going to hell or have missed the point, just....leave. Now. Quietly.
Thanks, The Management
It's been kind of a rough day for me today. I slept poorly, which isn't new. I couldn't quite get my shit together at any point today. In truth, this is a smaller representation of a larger truth for me.
It's been kind of rough lately, period.
And there are a million and twelve reasons why that is, but I struggle daily nonetheless with things I never thought would become this important. Or maybe still aren't important but feel like they should be.
One of our patients came into the ER a couple of years ago, high on who knows what (he said he'd been smoking phone books. Nobody believed that as the literal truth, but also, none of us knew of any common substance of abuse that got referred to as "phone book"), requesting detox from ghosts.
That is primarily how I feel today. I feel toxic, I was realizing, as I drove home from meeting Matt for lunch. Matt himself I do not find especially toxic (nor, say, breakfast, which was yummy today). But Matt and I get into these deep, personal debates about such trivial things and the purpose of life and the true place of scripture in religion, not to mention the place of religion in faith. I love having these conversations with Matt because we can; we're both well versed in many aspects of what we speak. We're respectful and polite but engaged and can disagree easily. And it's rarely true "disagreement" as much as exploration. Having come from a strong Orthodox Christian background, a militantly Lutheran undergrad, and a very Jesuit medical school - not to mention that I have an undergraduate degree in a theology-heavy view of Humanities. It was somewhat more polytheistic in its spectrum than his MDiv, but, see above, re: militant Lutherans. We both talked, and we both listened, and had useful discussion of things like the overlap between the Christian faith and Wicca, Judaism, Islam, etc. Given all of the name-calling and hell-sending and hypocrisy and righteous indignation and fear (above all, fear) in that my view of "religion" is so steeped...given all of that, it was absolutely fabulous today to sit at an outside cafe, surrounded by beatniks and people from all strata, basking in the newly arrived spring breeze, eating tasty organic hippie food, with a good friend who can have these discussions with me in a non-judgmental, non-secular, non-threatening way...it helps.
It also brings up a great deal of pain, which I realized about halfway through our lengthy discussion that in large part what I was doing was (if you'll pardon my digression into psychoanalytic babble) discharging a lot of my intolerable affect and painful energy around this stuff, giving it to him to contain, hold, detoxify, metabolize. In lay terms, one might use a word like "dumping." In realizing this, I also realized just how much pain, confusion, disappointment, conflict there is in this for me. I'd not been aware of the extent of this before today.
The interesting thing, to me, I was thinking on my way home, is that God is never the pain, confusion, disappointment, conflict. God and I are on solid terms. It's people that I can't seem to grasp.
Apparently my faith, which is a different entity than my religious affiliations, is something a bit more mystical than I'd realized until the past few months or so. I believe in the existence of God because I know God. I just do. I see God in the faces of my patients, the laughter of children, the brilliance of spring daffodils, the sweet and complete affective honesty of my dog. I see God in my life, and my family, and believe firmly that I was created in the image of God. Do I believe in the dual nature of Jesus and that He was the son of God? Of course I do. I think we're all children of God, and Jesus of Nazareth had a particular path, and investment of divine energy to understand and reclaim the bond to these creatures that had done exactly what God wanted them to do - develop autonomy. Truthfully? I believe Jesus saved us. All of us - not just the Christians. And in a way, I believe Jesus saved God. Jesus struggled, he was tempted and tortured, and did not always make what contemporary humans thought to be the right choice, but made the "mistakes" he did because they were so important to understanding humanity. This, I think, was his deity. He was the man he was to help us understand God, who through the passing of the Old Testament times had become less vengeful, more loving. Jesus not only told us what he saw as the desires and ideals of God, but showed them to us as well.
I bet Jesus was tired.
I align myself with the Greek Orthodox church, for reasons of culture more than reasons of doctrine, but that doesn't mean I ignore the dogmatic. But when it comes down to the truth of my relationship with God, I draw from countless traditions that are full of good ideas. Various inceptions of Christianity. Wicca. Islam. Buddhism. Hindu. Kabbalah. I've read the Q'uran, the Mahabharta, and the words of the Buddha. I know a lot about voudou and Santeria and Wicca. I get what we're all trying to do here - understand that which is incomprehensible. We don't all do it in as different ways as we might think, truly. I have my own interpretation of scriptures that at times may seem incompatible with things I endorse, but they aren't. Because it all makes sense in how I understand and relate to God.
But - and this is what struck me later, and is ostensibly why this rant has gone on so long - where we get ourselves into trouble is when we insist we've got it "right." This is why wars are fought over belief systems. I'm right, you aren't, and unless you see that you aren't, I'm going to have to annihilate you because I can't tolerate your dissent. And that can manifest itself in a lot of ways - torture, imprisonment, whatever means it takes to break your spirit; actual death; or, simply dismissing you as not being one of the chosen. I, having the one and only very correct answer to this, will spend my life in servitude to something greater (usually very apparent, loud, and obvious servitude, lest you should miss it) and be rewarded with the privilege of Heaven, because I am better and you are not. Poor you, condemned to fire, brimstone, and endless congressional filibusters.
You'll notice that the people who truly live their Christian (or whatever applies) faith rarely feel the need to rub your nose in it. They'll engage you about it if need be (or want be). They'll model it if you watch them closely. But they won't announce it every thirty seconds and smack you in the head with their well-worn religious tome. They will not condemn, they will not disdain. They will love, they will try to understand, they will do their best to accept.
Humanity....we all want to be special, chosen, elite. Christians...Muslims.....hell, have you met a Jungian lately? It's part of our inherent narcissism - the key to which is always poorly structured self identity and the inability of the ego (self) to defend itself from rejection, because it feels so inherently fragile that at any conflict, even relatively minor, it will be destroyed. The Buddha, though, who was self-identified as a philosopher and not a prophet, the Buddha makes all sorts of observations about self and non-self. About how we are nothing.
I've started to come around to this idea. Because it isn't as nihilistic as one might think. My interpretation of this is, we are nothing, precisely because we are everything. There is not one of us on this earth - future, past, and present - that is not connected. As parts, we are amazing, but the sum of those parts is something so big and all encompassing and important that it is simply unfathomable. It's like, consider the fibers of flax or cotton, cleaned and combed and laid just so...spun into a thread with a tensile strength well beyond that of an individual fiber. The thread is dyed a vibrant color, and delicately, painstakingly woven into its place. When you look at the great and impressive tapestry, the individual thread may not be noticeable, but it is of tantamount importance to the design, not to mention the structure - if you pull on that one scarlet thread, the whole tapestry will be altered and may well unravel.
I am special precisely because there is nothing special about me. This is the conclusion to which I've come today. There are many things about me which are good, many less good, many that are defining and I am as unique a creature as one could imagine. But I'm part of some greater whole, and that is truly the amazing thing about me. Life, humanity, the Holy Spirit, a Higher Power...the echoes are endless. I am but a scarlet thread.
And I, too, am tired. But also feeling better about getting that down. I might read it tomorrow and disagree with it some, but you know, if that happens, it is what it is.
This is the crap that goes on in my head all the time, ps. All. The. Damn. Time. This is part of my perpetual exhaustion...