How and Why my English teachers and professors are gonna kill me when they see the footnotes.
So, the last few posts were about physically getting here, and that’s happened and it’s wonderful. I’ve been adjusting to being a step-father, and trying to adjust to being a writer again, and I gotta tell ya, the former is INCREDIBLY easy AND exhausting at the same time, and the latter is supremely difficult lately. I need to stop listening to people who talk about how difficult it is to “make it” as a writer, I need to stop listening to myself saying I wasted too much time in this life to get this dream done, I need to stop listening to the never ending un-fucking-believably scary silence that is the blank piece of paper. I am stuck, and I need to get unstuck, so lets switch to a nice simple easy topic, shall we.
Today, brothers and sisters, let’s talk about God.
WAIT, wait, waitwaitwait! You, over there, don’t go running just yet. And you, in the front, put away your wallet. I just meant lets talk about the nature of God, discuss a little philosophy, if you please. There you go, little bunnies, that’s right, just settle in like you are getting ready for a nap. It’s all right. Everyone always falls asleep when I start blathering.
I have been thinking about this again lately, you see, and when I do, I once more feel obligated to beat anyone I can get to listen over their heads with the Fungo of Obviousness, as lots of people seem strangely blind and lost when it comes to this kind of thinking.
How did I arrive on this befuddling-but-should-be-obvious topic, you ask? It started this week with what has become one of my favorite Twitter followees, The Austin American Statesman. According to a poll or a study or something that I didn’t bother to read1, more Austinites than ever regard themselves as “Spiritual but not Religious” and I want to smack their hippy fool selves with my FOO.2 I’m ready to get my swing good and warmed up because I think most Austinites who describe themselves as such, do so because it is fashionably weird. Austin loves to be fashionably weird. Really, they made T-shirts. The fact that religion and spirituality go hand in hand is something even Austin’s most whacked-out whackadoodles do not need reminding of, I don’t believe, but the attempt to separate the two for no other reason than you can’t be bothered to get out of bed early on Saturday or Sunday morning to go to whatever large social gathering your parents trained you as good little chilluns to attend does not mean you are no longer religious, kiddies. It means you are Lapsed. As a lapsed Catholic myself, this is something I know a little bit about. Catholics invented lapsing, in fact2a. Now that’s not to say that a great many neo-hippies in Austin aren’t ACTUALLY spiritualists since, like I said, I didn’t really READ the survey, I just got tickled by the headline (This is after all, the age of instant news and the 140 character attention span.) But I imagine, knowing a good many of them, that most of them are much more lapsed than spiritual, and they need to be okay with it.
Other things that got me thinking about the Nature of the Divine Being3, you ask? A few, really. First, it’s gray as fuck here in SF3c this week, so that helps. Also, I’ve been listening in the car to a television program3f written by a hero of mine that quite often contains plot points intentionally manipulated to induce two of the main characters to argue on the nature of the New Testament and whether or not it might be, “a fairy tale.” Third, becoming a stepfather to two pre-teen girls after living a bachelor’s life for 35 years will also have you struggling to find strength in anything, faith included. And thankfully, that’s another way I have been reminded of this little conversation, from a lovely young lady, coincidentally named Grace.
Grace is beautiful, like her mother, precocious like her mother, and all of 12 years old. She asked me at dinner last night what my religion was, and though it had been a while since I had heard it, there was, in her voice, the timbre of the converter. Gracie, you see, has developed HER OWN RELIGION.3lmnop She named it after the gerund form of one of her favorite verbs4, though that has little to do with the dogma or practice of said religion. It revolves around, as best I can tell, the understanding of three female deities, personified as Life, Death, and Fate, sisters three, who influence but do not overtly control the lives of all human beings. There are elements of everything from Christianity to Greek and Roman Mythology to Warrior Goddesses of every fantasy novel ever written in her religious tenets and teachings, and this both makes me love her and speaks to the point that I will eventually get around to making, if you’re lucky.5
The obviousness of religious belief, and you may all exhale sighs of relief that I have finally gotten to the point, is this. All religions, now pay attention, are the same religion. God, in whatever form He may choose to take, loves all of you, whether you believe in Her or not. It doesn’t care if you are White, Black, Cuban, Asian or Mutant X-Factor positive. The only things They really care about are hatred (also known as the failure by human beings to treat other human beings like human beings), the attempt by each one of us to learn and better themselves, hurting or killing each other in It’s name, and pronouns. God is Jehovah, Muhammed, Buddha, Christ, Allah, Brahma, Shiva, Vishnu, Trees, Mushrooms, and any other damn thing that will get any of you to listen, pay attention, and stop hurting each other just because you can. Whatever It may be, It has done everything possible to get you to understand It. To do so, It has created wise and not so wise men who in turn have organized great social structures and built glorious buildings in which we may each worship It as we see fit.5z She has also been our Mother, and given us the resources we need to live, breathe, and wonder about the universe and each other. Lastly, It has given us just that, each other. Someone once said, “Hell is Other People”6 and while that may be true for some, I have learned that the opposite is also very true. Heaven is other people. Specifically, Heaven is the people in your life, be they great pieces or small, and if you don’t believe me, then you do not call your mother often enough, or are a sociopath of some type.7 When it comes to entertainment lately, the choice of me and mine has been a wonderful show entitled “This Emotional Life”,8 which quite wonderfully states that we need each other to survive and be happy, and while I agree with that, I kept finding myself thinking that there was more to it than just that. We don’t just need each other to be happy, we need to be happy for each other, and it strikes me as no accident. Some might consider it paradoxical thinking, but I think it’s blatantly obvious that this works this way on purpose.9 We need each other, we find happiness in each other, no matter our great differences. In fact, it is our differences that make us need and like each other and make us happy. Talking to oneself is a sign that one has gone the aforementioned whackadoodle, but talking to others is what we all need in our lives. Interaction is key, and we see it even in our worship of the higher power. We are PLURAL. So why do we insist on our religious beliefs being singular? Why can we not realize that God, in whatever form or name, is God in all forms and names? That He sent us whatever the hell it was we needed for us to figure out that She loves us, and that we should love each other?10 The similarities between the religions of this planet are all far too similar for this to be a coincidence. The Golden Rule exists in some form almost universally, from Bible to Torah to Koran to Oprah to whatever the name of L. Ron’s book is. Eventually, we all need to realize that God is right here, all around us, in the other people that we love and care about, in the people that other people love and care about that we’ve never met, and we need to shut up and try a little harder to stop honking at each other and hitting each other and killing each other and forgetting to leave the seat down. Because, if there is one thing I have learned, even more so than I ever knew it before I got here to SF to live with my family, Heaven is certainly other people.11
1. Here lies the link to said article,. Read it for yourselves, like good little sheep.
2. FOO, or The Fungo of Obviousness. Sad, really, that I have to explain an acronym for something I was just talking about three sentences before. Obviousness, according to my experience, requires a Fungo to the skull. Or a footnote. I enjoy comedic footnotes, and though I fully understand the Chicago and AP Rules of Style, I just don’t give a shit.
2a. The Lapsed Catholic Church was unofficially founded in 1866 by Algernon B. McCullen, an Irish immigrant, prominent accordianist, and former Union Army soldier, when he realized that he hadn’t been to Mass in something like six years because a bunch of his friends and relatives, all living just seven miles south of the border that he lived seven miles north of, had been trying inexplicably during this period to shoot his ass off. Realizing that he was likely to burn in hell if he didn’t get around to eventually going to confession, but that this was in no way preventing him or his future relatives from one day spending several hours on Sundays watching NFL football, Algernon petitioned the Pope to be dubbed the Cardinal of the Lapsed Catholic Church of the United States. His request, submitted by mail to The Holy Father in Rome, was unfortunately never granted, as it was returned to a Lexington, Kentucky Post Office, on the grounds that it was, “heretical”, “spiritually and morally unsound”, and lacked, “Sufficient Postage.” Mostly the later.
3. “I’ve worshipped Buddha, Allah, Brahma, Shiva, trees, mushrooms, and Isadora Duncan. I know things.” – the inimitable Annie Savoy.
3c. No one here is allowed to refer to SF as anything other than SF, or “The City.” Use of the term “San Fran” is socially frowned upon and may be prosecuted with a penalty of up to 60 hours community service and a $2500 fine. Use of the forbidden term “Frisco” is, I believe, punishable by death.
3f. It’s Aaron Sorkin’s Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, also known as Aaron Sorkin’s last bad idea on TV that premiered the same season as 30 Rock, was about basically the same thing, and was smarter, but less funny. That title ended up being too long, however, and really bad, at that. Also, yes, I listen to television programs on my iPhone while driving the car. I don’t WATCH them, but I listen. Sue me. And, stop signaling for seventeen blocks if you aren’t really turning right, lady, that’s just infuriating.
3lmnop. This use of capitalization was not only meant to imply importance, but should be accompanied by that angelic singing sound effect you always hear.
4. Words are fun. Grace knows this instinctually, just one of the millions of reasons I am in love with her, her mother, and her sister. Plus, aren’t you glad we finally got to footnote 4? Me too.
5. As I sit here, a song is playing in the café, by a band that helped me once have Faith in the Divine. I stood under a beautiful Texas night sky with my best friend and a girl I was in love with, and reveled in glorious music and happiness, thinking, “This, THIS is what all human beings are supposed to do with their lives, make each other feel LIKE THIS.” Sorry, that one wasn’t funny, or adorable like the last one.
5z. That is not to say that all the men involved subsequent to the creation of various religions were great, see also The Crusades, The Inquisition, The Salem Witch Trials, Billy Graham, L. Ron Hubbard, etcetera, ad nauseum.
6. Jean-Paul Sartre, as part of his masterwork Huis-clos, or “An Impression of Jeffrey Rider’s Mother,” in the English. It’s spot on.
7. The medical opinions expressed in this article are the sole opinion of the author of this blog, and in no way reflect the opinion of Blogger, Google, or any of their partners, divisions, holdings or subsidiaries. Also, call your mother sometime.
8. PBS, NOVA for BS, “This Emotional Life” 4 January 2010 (USA). Wow, that one was an actual footnote. Until I went, “Wow, …”
9. FOO SMACK!
10. A guy is sitting at home, and the television news reports that a flood is coming. He prays, knowing God loves him, and waits to be saved by the Lord. The waters rise up, and he goes out and climbs onto his fence , while a man in a rowboat comes by. The rowboat guy says, “Come with me and I’ll help you,” but the man prays, and waits to be saved by God. The waters rise further, and the man climbs onto the roof of his house. A helicopter comes by, and the pilot shouts to the man to grab a lowered rope, but the man refuses, and prays, still insisting that God will save him. The waters keep rising, and the man drowns. He gets to the gates of heaven, and asks St. Peter, “I prayed, and I am religious, why did God not save me?” Peter looks up the man’s name in the book, then replies, “We sent you a news report, a helicopter, and a guy in a rowboat! What the HELL are you DOING HERE??!?!?!” St. Peter is a grumpy old fart, I bet.
11. Don’t forget to leave the seat down.