Friday, December 21, 2007

evidence of schizophrenia

Here is a conversation:

Me: It is stupid to keep a blog. Who wants to know my silly opinions?

Other Me: Yeah, but you enjoy it. You compose posts in your head all the time.

Me: Yeah, but nobody reads them.

Other Me: well, that doesn't mean you can't write them anyway. And besides, some people read it, and they tell you they like it.

Me: But I don't even know what I'm doing. I use this voice that sounds like I know what I'm talking about, but the reality is that I'm not sure about anything.

Other Me: I don't think you're fooling anybody. I think it's obvious you don't know what you're talking about.

And on and on. And this is why there's not many posts recently. Because the "Me" voice is usually stronger than the "other me" voice.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

But on the other hand, I've had fairly profound experiences that meant a great deal to me during the past month with each of my "areas" (Christian, Buddhism, agnosticism). I just don't see how I could give any of them up. I'm reading a book by Brian McLaren (Finding Faith)(the old, single volume version) that has really helped me. McLaren is the pastor of a Bible church in Maryland. I don't always agree with his conclusions, but his line of thinking has been like a balm for my wounded Christian spirit. I don't think I'll ever end up being an orthodox Christian again -- meaning one that believes in the Virgin birth, the bodily resurrection, the existence of a literal heaven and hell and specific people who go there, etc-- but I believe in the message of Christianity. Not the evangelical message, I've already talked about my disagreements with that. But the message of love for one's neighbor, and one's neighbor is everyone you encounter. The message of the power of love to heal the wounds of living in this messed-up world, no matter what the nature of those wounds. The message of the Sermon on the Mount-- true power doesn't come from financial, military, or authoritarian power; true power comes from loving and serving and giving.

I'm also listening to Pema Chodron's Noble Heart, a ten-day retreat on cultivating bodichitta, the practice of an awakened heart. I'm not comfortable acting as a spokesperson for Buddhism, but it's effect on me has been profound. Even while typing what I believed about Christianity, I found myself thinking in Buddhist terms. "the wounds of living in Samsara." True compassion for one's neighbor begins with true compassion for one's self, "unlimited friendliness" toward our own failings and limitations, Pema calls it. This morning I was listening to the bit about how our minds have an innate capacity for being open and spacious, not tied up with the soap opera of our lives, if we can just shut up long enough to let our minds do their spacious thing. (she didn't phrase it like that, of course). This isn't new to me-- it's the kind of thing you read all the time in buddhist writing. But if you've been raised as an over-achieving Westerner, it's not intuitively obvious, and sometimes it's hard to believe. All those busy, busy thoughts seem so important. I've been trying meditation for some time now. I could easily concentrate here on how terrible-- no, how truly awful -- I am at meditation (maybe I'll do another post on that sometime), but what's relevant for the moment is that just this morning I caught a glimmer of that spaciousness. It's there, if we can just let go of the drama long enough to let it be.

And then there's agnosticism. To be honest, this is the one that feels the most real to me right now. I'm having a hard time believing in anything at the moment. I have a long track record of this. To doubt is fundamental to who I am, or at least, to who I perceive myself to be (Buddhism again). I love to question, to rip things apart. I'm not always great at putting them back together again. I'm reading God is not Great, which is atheist and not agnostic, of course. But I'm not done yet, so more on that later.

But I'm re-thinking my fractions. (you know, the one-third this, one-third that, one-third the other bit.) Because I'm not an agnostic in the sense Huxley intended. At least I don't think so. I think a true agnostic believes that since we can't know the answer to most of our questions about God and eternal truths, we can't believe. But I do believe. I don't know precisely how to name what it is that I believe in, but I do know that there is something there. Make that capital-S Something. There is Something beyond the ordinary sensory experience of life. I've said this so many times before I'm feeling redundant but it has been awhile, so here it is again. I don't know what it is that I connect with-- if it's something within my own consciousness or subconsciousness, if it's God or the Divine Source or cosmic strings or neurons firing in my cerebral cortex or what. But there is definitely Something that I connect with, and I believe in it. I have faith in it, even though my faith falters at times. And further: I believe it is worth connecting with. I think that last bit is the thing that atheists miss.

I'm so glad I'm not worrying about dangling prepositions anymore. That paragraph is full of them.

So I'm changing my fractions. One-third Christian, one-third Buddhist, and one-third something else, and I'm not sure what to call it. I've been thinking about this for awhile, but haven't typed it out because I don't know how to put it into words. But it has something to do with what we do with the stuff of our life, our experience; what we create out of the day-to-day details of living. I'm tempted to call it art. I believe in what we create out of ourselves and our experience, whether it is a literal work of art or a family or a home or a business. Or is it that I believe in the process of creating something out of ourselves? I was reminded of this today-- and here, far too many words later, I finally get to what prompted me to write this today.

My daughter's high school is a half dozen blocks from our church. Every year in December, the high school choir, which is excellent, walks down to our church at lunchtime and puts on a brief Christmas concert. I was there for it today and it was lovely. I've known a dozen or so of these kids for years-- one since she was in kindergarten with my daughter, many others since they were gangly, awkward 13 or 14 year olds. And some of them are still pretty goofy. Lovable, but goofy. But you put all of them together and their love for each other and their affection for their director and their respect and care for the music comes together and creates something far more than the sum of its parts, something that can move me nearly to tears. The concert wasn't perfect; they were trying out some new songs and there were a few rough edges. But it was something else, something better than clinical perfection, something that I aspire to myself. Let me know if you think of how to describe this, a word for it. Life is what you make it, yes? But I mean that in a much deeper way than the flip, casual way in which that phrase is usually said.

Oh, have I ever gone on too long this time. My apologies for the length. And reading over this, I realize that I've used the word "something" way too often and with many different meanings, but I don't know how to re-word it at the moment, so that's all for today.

Aunt BeaN

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

I've said before that I'm a Buddhist agnostic Christian. Or an Agnostic Christian Buddhist. Or a Christian Buddhist agnostic. You get the idea. It depends on the day you ask which one of those is the noun and which are the qualifiers. This isn't always popular. You get the impression from some people that it is wrong to combine ideas. If you're Christian, you're somehow betraying The Church if you adopt ideas from Buddhists or atheists. Or if you're atheist, you're lower than dirt if you admit that sometimes you have spiritual feelings that make you wonder. You don't get that from everyone, of course. Lots of people out there have cobbled together their own belief system. But I get it from enough people, from all three of my "areas," that it bugs me sometimes.

And I have to admit that the idea of adopting a single belief system and declaring complete loyalty to it is pretty appealing to me. Probably partly because I was raised to believe that is the "right" way to do it, but also because I know some people who are that way whose faith I envy. In the past week I've spent time with two dear friends, one Mormon and one Buddhist, who are both radiant with the happiness that their belief system brings them. They have each found the system that suits them, clearly. It's obvious from the way they glow when they talk about it. I'm fairly comfortable with my weird, one-person path most of the time, but I don't glow. I was envious.


Sunday, December 02, 2007

I made it to 40,400-odd words. Better than last year, but still not 50,000. Maybe next year. Third time's the charm, right? The main consequence (for me) of participating in NaNoWriMo has been the most utter, profound respect for anyone who has written a real, full-length book. You are all gods, every one of you.