I’m a pretty big believer in the concept that ideas find you when you need them most. Some people call this fate. It might be destiny. It can be the universe pointing you in the right direction. It might even be God, in whatever form that takes for a person.
Because I am fairly obsessed with religion, I seek it out. I also argue with people, which is just stupid, I know. Partly because I see faith as a gift, so arguing against it or being flippant actually acts quite contrary to my core belief that anything that makes a person feel better and isn’t harmful is good in my book. I suspect it’s an intellectual activity, not unlike a game. However, not everyone wants to play football with faith.
Lately, I’ve been concerned with how I treat others. I have been short, to the point, and often blunt when it wasn’t needed. While I know INTELLECTUALLY that this isn’t the right path, I’m having difficulty FOLLOWING the appropriate path. Trust me, all Pinterest signs lead me to one acknowledgment of the importance of kindness after another. Either it’s me, or the whole universe is having this issue. There are SO MANY quotes and wall decorations.
However, none of this is getting me there. Add to that some personal difficulties and an out-of-control appetite (combined with exercise avoidance) and you have every indication of someone who is avoiding the hard work in life. These things don’t come together because all is good. They come together because there’s an out-of-balance element that needs to be fixed. All (Pinterest) signs point to that direction.
So I’m once again at the gates of faith. What do I believe, and who am I at the core? If there is only one life to do well, then what am I doing well? What should I or what do I want to be doing well? Am I ready to set aside ego for right? Can I accept that right doesn’t have to mean correct but fair? Can I set aside my need to be the center of it all? Can I put to the front something else? Truly, I don’t know.
But then, of course, the universe was there with a starting point. I was going through a pile of magazines that I hadn’t read from when I was in Des Moines. One was “The Sun” which is a literary magazine. Wouldn’t you know the topic seemed to be about faith — in all forms — and questioning one’s role in life. There was an interview from Jacob Needleman called “On God Without Religion.” He’s a lot like me, only sage.
Here are bits from the larger interview that made so much sense to me. It’s about the idea of experiencing deep feelings. It’s my starting point to where to go next in life, and how to craft the path.
Without the experience of deep feeling, you’re likely to suffer from a fundamental sense of meaninglessness. I’ve seen it countless times with the young people I’ve taught throughout the years. ….
The only real answers lie in a deep feeling that shows us what meaning is, that gives us the experience of God rather than a belief in God. When you’re far from that meaning and experience, you’ll be depressed.
What we call “God” is what actually gives meaning to life. Everything else, like fame, money, or power is what traditional religion calls an “idol”. Idols give you temporary gratification or distraction but leave you with the feeling that “you can’t take it with you.” The experience of God cures that, not by making you feel immortal, but by connecting you with what’s timeless, both out there and within yourself. So the meaning of life is not words but experience.
As a culture, we’re coming to face our spiritual poverty, which is an important first step, as it would be for any seeker. But we tend to look at religion the way we look at football — we want our side to win! Even atheists want science to win over God. I’m all for scientific atheism in the sense that it encourages people to question the egotistic content of religion, but we don’t need to throw out God so much as we need a new concept of God: a concept that’s free of myth, superstition, and fear, and that brings us into real presence with each other. When that happens, it transforms everything, at least for a moment.
To read the full text, you’d need to order a back issue copy. You won’t regret it, as the magazine is stellar. Here’s part of the interview to whet your whistle.