Sunday, December 12, 2010

The anomaly of belief

When I was younger I was brought up a Catholic and told as a child I had been baptized into the family of God.  Staying in the Catholic church I was then told I needed a Communion and Confirmation.  I was taught that the Eucharist was the changing of a piece of bread and some wine into the body and blood of the Son of God that I worshipped.

Looking back, I realized that I believed everything I was told.

I needed to tell a grown man my deepest faults and thoughts, I had to ask this man to absolve me using some divine right given to him that through the power of his authority would give me penance and the sin would be made right and my guilty conscience cleansed from the fact that I closed the window on my sisters fingers accidently and stuck my fingers in the Jello before it had cooled in the fridge.

I believed everything I was told.

As I grew older, I began to doubt what I was told.  A man was just a man, the bread and wine was just the same.  And nobody who was just as faulty as I could take anything away from me with a few poems repeated around a set of beads.

Belief, because of how it was grown led itself to inconsistencies.  Becoming more pragmatic in thought I reversed course and questioned my early childhood programming.  What was it I was being taught, why and for what purpose?  Do humans really need to be given a religion to identify with, to rely upon and gain comfort from.  Does the thought of not existing at the end of a life scare and entire species enough to invent an afterlife that cannot be seen?

If evolution is to be believed, at some point humans were smart enough to get together in groups long enough to develop relationships and collaborate enough to agree that something invisible controlled their lives.  Not just one set of evolved people, but all of them.  For without evolution, you cannot have evolved man making a fictional deity.  Man became smart enough to pretend.  It wasn’t that an evolved upright man could see storm clouds coming in with lightning and assume that must be rain.  No, they had to find purpose behind the rain.  They were after all ignorant, weren’t they?  Purpose had to be found for the sun to rise, for floods, for the tides, for the moon, the stars, birth and death.  All this had to be given a meaning for the why they existed.  Someone at some point, using some type of communication in the grunting non communicative world had to push the non-existent into existence.  It had to be man that does this, since no evolved animal believes in a greater being.  Snails, as far as I know have no god.  Nor do birds, or dogs, or shrimp.  Cats seem to fancy themselves rulers in houses, but no animal I know builds a shrine to what they cannot see.  Somehow, evolved man became dumber than instinctual animals.  And in fear of standard elements that occurred daily, weekly and yearly the invisible made itself visible to primitive beings by their very own imaginations.  Maybe, the point in creation for their weakness in themselves and more in the invisible came when communication began.  Could the very first language that developed among the new bipeds contain words for god or spirit?  If it must be so then at some point there must have been agreement enough that this great invisible power must be appeased and worshipped and honored.  But how can something imagined be appeased and worshipped and honored?  Man must now begin to set rules and regulations.  Man is so clever at this time.  Not only does he make a god, he develops laws around which to serve the imaginary emptiness that he envisions.  Evolution of his belief becomes refined at this point and as communities grow so does the idea of his god.

If I trace man back to pre man, back to pre creation I am left with a cluster of matter of energy that just existed.  A compression of matter waiting for, well whatever it needed to accomplish before exploding into the statistical impossibility that brought forth all light and life as we know it.  That matter just was.  There was no unseen hand, no direction and no plan.  It just was.

If this is my reality that it just was, then all of life is futile.  Families, marriages, relationships are a sham and complete hypocrisy of human existence.  Bettering oneself with education and goals of helping less fortunate are a weakness to a species meant to survive and dominate in order to thrive.  Our teachers should be nature itself and focus should not be on developed laws of man, but on survival of the fittest.  Eugenics should be employed to the fullest extent and the weaker cast off so the stronger can thrive.  Morals should be defined to a minimal.  Emotion should be seen for the evolutionary fault that it is and be modified out early. 

An atheist would have you believe that.  But along with my Catholicism, I doubt what I am told.

When I was younger, I remember being outside my house and staring at a sunset during a late summer dusk.  The clouds were very prevalent; they almost looked like rolling mountains in the sky set in deep crimson as in the distance the sun dropped below the horizon.  Overwhelmingly and fleeting at the same time was a sensation that beauty as temporary as this is eternal somewhere else.  It happens sometimes still.  A piece of music, a painting or still photo, a good conversation with a friend, all temporary moments that give insight into something greater than what they represent.

That appreciation, as any scientist would say is a chemical reaction of endorphins in the brain.  People begin to chase those experiences.  Some repeat the feeling with friends, assembling themselves a community of like minded believers.  Others around music, either playing or listening.  It is an embedded appetite in every human that reaches for something more and something distant.  It’s an appetite that was placed there for a reason.

I had never found a satisfactory fulfillment for this appetite.  Anything experienced did not create the same feeling of community or fulfillment the second time around.  Friendly gatherings finished and the next day made me feel alone.  I would chase that feeling as I got older in different avenues in my life.  Recently I heard it expressed better than I ever have before.

“Do you see the picture of futility that is represented? When men and women turn their backs on the creator God who sustains the universe, who rules over the nations, who is Father of humanity and who is judge of all the earth, when men and women turn their back on God as he has made Himself known, then they don't turn to nothing, they turn to everything.”

In an effort to search out a fulfillment for what strikes our hearts as beauty, for what calls to us as lovely and good and right and fair and just and eternal with a sense of belonging and community and acceptance we tend to habitually forget the one who put that desire in us the first place.

I cannot explain to people a life with Christ.  It’s impossible, because everyone’s walk with him is different.  To the non-believer it is fictitious and unexplainable, to the believer it is a shared perception but nevertheless equally unexplainable.

The totality can be summed up in a simple statement: Because He is, we are.

And because He is, there is no need to search for another sunset, no need for another party, another drink, another symphony, another concert, another poetry reading no longer the need to cut oneself, to deny the existence of something you cannot see.

At some point a certain piece of scripture, when exposed to an individual, burns in the heart of the person who hears or reads it.

If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it

Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

Eternity for a moment is grasped and peace is obtained, through faith.

You just need to believe…not what you are being told by a fallible man, but what you are shown by an infallible God.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The kindness of strangers is overrated

Over the summer I ventured into the city of Lockport. Normally I spend as little time in Lockport as possible, it’s not that I don’t like Lockport; it’s just that there isn’t much to do there. For some reason, the one main strip they have in the city catches fire often, I believe due to the fact that it is so depressed that no one visits. They have a vacuum store on State Street, but that doesn’t even appear to have the pull it used to have.

While in the city I was out door knocking and introducing the church I attend IN Lockport to the city OF Lockport. You would think at one point the two would have met, or at least waved to one another but in most instances, neither knows the other is there. Some people think, “Why Craig, that’s really strange.” Or “Why would you want to do that?” or my personal favorite “This is a Baptist church? You guys use tambourines in your service and stuff?”

Sadly there are no tambourines, but I have a deep desire to see people end up in a church that they enjoy going to. I have lived long enough to see what it’s like when a person does not have a church home. After my Grandfather passed away on my Dad’s side, we had a Rent-a-Rev come in and ask us nice things about my Grandfather. He scribbled notes down to try to assemble some aspect of my Grandfather’s life together and I thought for a moment how nice it would be that someone in some clergy actually had known my Grandfather. During the service it seemed so impersonal. Like a funeral Ad-Lib where you insert the noun and verb and adverb and come up with a story of the person’s life.

Now if you’re an atheist, I understand that a person who is a practicing well, anything seems pointless to you. But when you die I am sure you want people to say nice things about you. Like how hopeful you were for the future and stuff.

Back to Lockport though. Ending up on a street the first house I came to and knocked a woman came to the door. I introduced myself, said where I was from and asked her if she attended church anywhere. She proceeded to tell me yes and then began telling me how her son passed away recently, and that she really missed him and would like prayers from our church. She then asked if I liked puzzles.


“Yes! Do you like them? My son and I use to do them all the time.”

Oh no…puzzles. I sort of guessed where this might be going. You see, to me a puzzle will inform you how obsessive compulsive you are. How something that sits on your kitchen table unfinished is just a physical manifestation of your failures in life and how you never completed anything, The very fact that the puzzle not being finished shows you don’t care enough about it to take care of it and see it develop into what it should be and that is why your puppy ran away and got run over. Oh no….puzzles and I, we don’t hang.

“Of Course I LOVE puzzles!”

How could I not like puzzles? Obviously an important activity between her and her son I was not about to tell her that puzzles and I have never gotten along. ‘Wait right here!” she said and walked back into her house.

No sooner can you say “I wish she was a catholic who thought I was a Jehovah Witness” does she come back to the door with not 1 but 3 puzzles.

“These were the last 3 I ever finished and would like you to have them.”

SIGH….why couldn’t she and her son had collected large screen televisions…

I take the puzzles, thank the lady and am on my way. When I get home I show the kids my prize, thinking they will take these puzzles and lose them. They disappear for several months never to be thought of again.

That is, until Brandon brought one out last week. He was sitting in the living room putting the pieces together and I saw him developing the same relationship I had with puzzles. No sir, the cycle of abuse must end now, we shall be victorious. I inform Brandon to put the puzzle back in its box (he had only take out a few pieces and it wasn’t hard to put away).

Brandon, Katie and I spent the past couple of nights assembling this puzzle. It has 3 horses on it. Running free on a beach somewhere. They look happy, content to be in puzzle form.

I immediately turn on my advanced puzzle making skills, taught to me many years ago. Build the border first. Yes…preciousss…the border first. You cannot bring order to chaos without a boundary. Without it, the Great Nothing will consume the 3 horses, and the beach they are on with the childlike empress and your puppy is run over again with your parents just telling you he ran away. The Border first!

After 1 hour the border almost assembled of this 300 piece puzzle and there is a missing piece. The border is incomplete.

I swear to you I wanted to quit right here. I already assessed the remaining pieces and none of them was the final border piece. My mind went into fix it mode…did Brandon lose it? Can it be on the floor? Is it at the puzzle lady’s house? Can I go over there and check for it? Would she mind?

I didn’t say anything to the kids, Katie had joined us and they were happily building out the 3 horses. But I knew, it didn’t matter. Even if you assembled the entire puzzle, by default it will not be complete. It’s unfinished.

Over the course of 2 days and a night the children went to bed and I furiously fit the rest of the pieces together to have ended up with 2 missing pieces. The border and a horsey is missing his femurs.

Now what’s the moral of the story? Could I call the manufacturer and request those pieces specifically? No, they are already out of print. Could I find the same puzzle at a garage sale and grab those two pieces? No, then I will have 1 complete and 1 incomplete puzzle. Was the lady at the door an agent of Satan and knew of my complex and gave me incomplete puzzles? Maybe…but I doubt it.

No. The Moral is children that when you go to anyone’s door, ever, for any reason, take nothing from them unless it is hermetically or factory sealed.

Honestly though, I enjoyed the time with my kids. Katie is 10 and Brandon is 7 and I will never have this time with them again. I am thankful that we were able to have fun together, just like the previous owners did.