Sunday, March 20, 2011

Atheist Me - Day 7 (My Findings)

Well this has been an interesting week... 

When I originally began this experiment, it was to see if I could let go of my notion that a spiritual entity of some kind had more to do with my circumstances than I did and was thus keeping me from my good.  Whether it was due to the fact that I simply hadn't come into alignment with this entity or whether it didn't give a rat's ass about my hopes and dreams, I was feeling unsettled and left out of the equation of my own life.  And I wondered if shaking up my belief system somewhat would help me arrive to the place of inner peace I had been seeking. 

It was a novel idea for me to consider looking at my life through the eyes of an atheist because, as a spiritual person, I simply didn't think that being an atheist was an option that was available to me.  I mean who am I if I am not neglected by Life?  This theory fit perfectly into the belief system that I was just one of the unlucky ones that the great divine chose not to favor.  But after this experiment, I can see the value in reconsidering this way of thinking.  It has overstayed its welcome and has haunted my steps for far too long.

I liken this week to that moment when a toddler, who has been throwing an extra long temper tantrum, looks up to realize that there is no parent observing the behavior.  That realization is enough to make the kid give up the kicking and screaming in favor of a more rational demeanor.  In taking this week to explore atheism, I feel like I've taken a break from my kicking and screaming long enough to discover that no one has been watching me throw this decades-long fit in the first place.

When I was a kid (maybe 8 or 9 years old), I went to the Highway Tabernacle on the bus every Sunday.  I tried really hard to believe in what they taught me about Jesus and God, the devil and heaven.  In looking back however, I can see that it didn't really ring true for me then.  I went because it was expected of me, because I was lonely (my Mom worked all the time) and because I liked the company.  It was also a break from the relentless bullying I experienced fairly regularly at school.  After all, people are well behaved in their Sunday best.  But one evening, as we were all being transported to a late service, a couple of older kids were taunting me at the back of the bus, just out of the driver's eyesight.  They were pretty mean spirited about it and everyone around me was laughing and snickering at my expense.  I kept calling out to the driver from the back of the bus to come to my aid (even as a little kid, I knew this kind of treatment was incredibly unjust) but no assistance was forthcoming.  I assumed it was because he couldn't hear me, so I got out of my seat and walked the long, intimidating aisle towards the front so that I could speak directly to the driver in order for my case to be heard.  When I arrived at the front of the bus, the driver pulled over in exasperation, grabbed me by the scruff of my collar and pushed me all the way back down the aisle, trying to stuff me into any sliver of unoccupied bench he could find along the way.

I was a portly young lass back then and there just wasn't any room in this crowded bus away from the bullies to squeeze me in.  Finally, he found a spot a couple seats ahead of my tormentors and that is where he unceremoniously dumped me.  This was his solution - to push me around without allowing me a say in the matter and to insist that I just sit down and bear it.  All the other kids around me were silently reveling in a kind of delicious shock because they had just escaped unscathed in this incident and were obviously not going to be reprimanded for their shitty behavior.  I was mortified.  I felt neglected and betrayed.  I had reached out for guidance and I was not getting any. 

And when it comes to God/Spirit/The Universe, not a lot has changed from my perspective.  It still feels as if I am not being heard.  Even last night before going to bed, I asked for a "sign" that would compel me to write in this blog today that I am a believer in the existence of a great Spiritual Presence.  I asked to be shown in my dream something that would give me cause to reconsider the skeptical road I am about to head down - the road in which I will seek evidence to justify the validity of extraordinary claims rather than continue to proceed in this reluctant and foggy faith of mine, wanting to be a believer.
But nothing came to me in my dreams.  No sign, no angels, no indication that the atheism joke is on me. 

It seems at end of the day, that there just isn't a God who is listening.

So what are my findings?  Well, I have found in this last week that I am not alone in my journey.  I closed the door on Spirit and found a whole community of exquisite human beings, each walking their own path, some who lent me a hand while I walked in mine.    I found information, knowledge and most of all gratitude for what I have.  And this thanksgiving came to me as a result of the mental space I cleared up which was previously occupied during my own personal pity party as I sparred off with God.

Life is not always easy.  And it isn't always fair.  So it's important to find something to lean on to help make sense of it all.   For some, that's where science comes into play; for others, faith.  If believing in God provides a person the support they need in order to enjoy life then I say fill your Steve Maddens.  But if the relationship with this entity is cumbersome beyond "belief" then there comes a time to change one's footwear.

There are so many things in life I cannot change.  But I can change my socks and I can change my shoes.  And then I can walk a mile in them, with purpose and with grace.  And maybe even a healthy dose of faith.  However, the faith I have been calling forth must be placed first and foremost in the lady who lives in my skin.  Because the bottom line is that it doesn't matter who or what I believe in if I cannot believe in myself.

After the bus incident, where the bullies got the better of me, I stopped going to the Highway Tabernacle for a while.  Then, some months later, I heard through the grapevine that the church was putting on a Christmas pageant and they were looking for youngsters to fill the main roles.  This, of course, was where I knew I fit in.  The acting bug had already bitten and, while I felt inadequate in many ways, performing was not one of them.  Expressing myself artistically as a kid was where I knew my place to be.  My worth in that regard was determined by no one else but me.   So I dusted myself off and like a mousy bespectacled wallflower in a 1930s movie who plucks her thick brows and returns a sudden threat to an unsuspecting brethren, I sauntered my chubby ass into those auditions with the confidence of a lion.  Surrounded by my previous bullies and by much prettier girls, I was nevertheless prepared and keen to nail the material for the only female role in this surprisingly progressive piece of church theatre.  I took a deep breath, recited my lines when it was my turn, as did everyone else, and then we waited with bated breath to see who would get the lead role.  To the shock and dismay of the other kids who had been so mean to me on the bus, the coveted role of Smurfette in the Highway Tabernacle Smurfy Christmas play was mine! Those little bitches didn't even see me coming.  (Which was astonishing given that I was wearing a pair of bright pink parachute pants with a cummerbund style waistband.)

All joking aside (yes I did rock that effing joint as Smurfette), I think that my greatest conclusion from this past week is that the time has come to put away childish things (old wounds, hurts and resentments).  It's time to adopt in their place a new belief system, one in which I call the shots but also one in which I remain blissfully open - to myself, my abilities, my goals and even to those things I do not understand.  I am willing to be much more discerning about my beliefs but I am not willing to close the door on something spectacular, should that something choose to reveal itself to me.  

Yes Virginia, I want to believe in magic.  But if such a thing doesn't exist in the Spirit realm, and if I am the only one in control of my life's course, then that's not such a bad thing either.  As someone commented on an earlier post,
"...besides, if it's all you, isn't that magic enough?  I'd say." 

I think the trick for me is to find the magic that exists within and believe in that.  To reach a definitive understanding of everything else is too big a task for a seven day experiment.  So I will lean into these new philosophies and cut myself some slack as I quench my thirst for knowledge on personal truths that may take a life time to uncover.

And I will take what I've learned this week to help me stay present so that I may enjoy the ride along the way.

Thank you so much for joining me in this process and in my quest for bliss.  It means the world to me that you are here.

With love and gratitude...

Your pal,

The Happiness Detective

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