New Year’s Day… no resolutions
The month of December has been a month. I mean, it was just thirty-one days, one day following the next, moving forward like a train without breaks. I can’t say I was particularly sad or happy or grieving or resolute, I just was. Things were. They are no longer because those days have gone.
I lay in bed early this morning, around one thirty, after we and the kids finished watching an old movie, and told my wife I have nothing to resolve. I have no vision, no dream, no wish, no hope. Every day is like every other day. It is just a day.
Well, sure, I have plans, if I live long enough and am physically able to complete them, but they’re just plans, things to do with my time. If I don’t get to them it will matter very little. They’re just ideas to occupy this mortal body while it still functions.
What is it that demands we make goals, come up with “resolutions,” have visions and dreams? In my life it has been religion, Christianity, that not only insisted I have plans but also that I “give my life” to them, surrender my whole soul to them, make them into my purpose.
I have to admit that I’m really frustrated and somewhat angry with Christianity. It stole away so much of my life, ate up my will, ground down my ability to live free and be more than I could have been. Far too late I recognized the whole of Christianity is a house of cards, an opiate, a drug that puts followers in a stupor that blinds them to truth and reality. Now I’m having withdrawal. It wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t hurt all the time, physically. Maybe my mental state is contributing to my pains, or vice-versa, I don’t know, but either way, I feel lousy.
Bitterness is not a good thing. I am struggling not to be bitter. I spent almost fifty years following a religion of convoluted ideas, unreachable ideals, unprovable notions, unanswered questions, unrealized dreams, unsubstantiated suppositions, and an unstable history driven by an unrepentant and self-serving hierarchy that used a book of myths and a stack of absurd doctrines to convince followers they had to “turn or burn.” I don’t want to be bitter. I want to forgive in the way I believe the Creator of this universe expects us to. But it’s not easy, you know. The human desire to be bitter and resentful is strong where someone feels wronged, used and abused.
Honestly, I can’t believe how naive I was all those years. The whole thrust of Christianity makes no sense when looked at logically and straight-forward. This is especially true when one looks at how Christianity is practiced rather than how the guy Christians claim to follow actually taught. (If Christianity was actually based upon the teachings of Jesus whom they call “Christ” I would probably still be one.) Christianity claims freedom but binds believers with a limitless list of rules, called “sins,” that they must repent for. Christianity claims every individual has value and worth but then pushes them to the floor in a demand that they be servants of “the most high God,” whatever that really means, and reject themselves. It piles guilt upon anyone who does anything for “self”. At the same time it teaches each person must do what is demanded so he or she can make it to the promised land–a purely selfish end to a selfless life. How insane is that? It claims humanity was created to be a free, sentient race but teaches a doctrine that makes them nothing more than knee-bending servants to a tyrannical deity. I speak heresy, I know, but this is how the world–and I–see Christianity today.
Christianity has done a superb job of glossing over the absurd irregularities, inconsistencies and incongruous nature of doctrine by throwing in references to the divine: “God’s ways are not our ways.” If this is true, how can one ever expect to follow effectively?
But I did not sit down to blog about Christianity. In fact, I don’t know why I sat down to blog. I just wanted to talk. Or write. It’s what I do.
Yesterday I bought a skein of thread and a crochet needle. Last night I set out to make myself some house shoes. I figured mom didn’t get to it so I would. It’s a skill she taught me decades ago. After five tries I managed to crochet a fairly consistent round thing about four inches across. This is going to take longer than I’d planned. It’s something to do and it’s both a tribute to what my mom taught and a reminder of all those years she sat with thread and needle cranking out all kinds of things with unimaginable speed. In the time it took me to get the round thing done she would have finished the shoes altogether!
This is my life’s purpose, I suppose. To crochet. And build on my day room. And create a few more things on this land where we live. I’ve never much liked living here. I’ve hated the place on occasion. It’s growing on me these days, however. I’m learning to live moment to moment and appreciate rather than resent. All in all it’s not such a bad place. I love my little tin can house and I love the family that lives within it. I have all I need, more than that, more than I deserve. I shall learn to appreciate it while I have it–or it has me.
Anyway, is it bad not to have a purpose or vision? Christianity says we should. But really, why is a purpose or vision necessary? Why must we believe we’re supposed to be visionaries or crusaders and if we don’t have a goal–preferably one that promotes some kind of good for humankind–we are failures. I had goals. I had dreams. I had ambitions. I wanted to save the world. Stupid me. I never did and never could have. Now I simply want to live every day in such a way as to make the most positive impression not on the whole human race but simply on every person I come in contact with. Fact is, no mater who anyone is that’s all they can do.
I love Buddha. Not because he was a god or anything of the sort, but because he–and those who have followed him–taught practical truth and understanding entirely different from that pounded in the heads of Christians. Though some branches of Buddhism slip into the mystical and the world beyond our reality Gautama focused on humanity itself in its current state. He taught all about human frailty, pain, failure… in a word: suffering. What it is, what causes it, how to get rid of it. His simple, easy to understand and follow teaching gives all the answers to life anyone ever needs. Religion might fill in the gaps for those who have to have them filled, but Siddhartha Gautama the Buddha’s words are all the teaching and understanding I’ve ever sought.
Nobody knows what comes before or after this life–or even if something DOES come before or after. Religion fills in the not-knowing with belief, conjecture, supposition, a blank slate called faith upon which each religion writes a different story. The beautiful thing about bare-essence Buddhism is that the slate remains virtually blank. Oh, sure, two and a half millennium of Buddhism has put quite a lot on it. But it’s all human conjecture, not the pure teaching of Buddha. (Buddhists do not claim the same divinity and inspiration of their scriptures that Christianity does.) Buddha scribbled a few “this is what’s ‘out there'” notions, too, but even as he did the impression of his own former religion is obvious. And even as Buddha taught certain things about an after life Buddhism does not insist followers embrace it the way he taught it. Christianity, like all other religions, does not simply suggest but demands the whole schema of “the faith” be embraced. Without all that “eternal” stuff Christianity has no meaning whatsoever. The opposite can be said for Buddhism.
I started this blog like I do most of them, merely talking to myself. I was thinking about what I told my wife just before we went to sleep last night. I do not have a vision, a purpose, a meaning, a goal, a “New Year’s Resolution.” And I do not, in conclusion, believe this is a bad thing. It is a good thing. No expectations means no disappointment. No vision means no possibility of failure. No dream means no broken heart when the pot of gold at the end of my rainbow comes up missing or turns out to be lead. In fact, as I see it this is precisely how Buddha teaches us to live.
Living in this moment, not looking to an illusion of future that does not exist nor looking back to an illusion of history that no longer exists, this is the most excellent way. As I live in each moment I have time (another illusion) to contemplate, to think, to recognize the good I have. I can focus on doing the best and most good for those around me, whom ever they happen to be at that given moment. A kind word, a smile, a hug, these are the tools that give life meaning. I’m really not very good at using them but with each moment I try a bit harder to make them more effective.
The sun is up. A new day and a new year begins. A few pills, a couple cups of coffee and a little time has lessened the pains I have. I’ve had my first hug of the day and said my first “I love you.” There is peace and rest in this place. At this moment life is good. My only goal, vision or mission in life is to live each day, live IN each day, and let all the yesterdays and tomorrows take care of themselves. This world I inhabit is finite, encapsulated between two ticks of a clock. I deal with this moment in this moment. Whether or not this second is an illusion as well, it is the illusion I deal with, only this one, none other.
Faith has little place in this moment. Faith only offers continuity from moment to moment like the space between the pieces of a puzzle. Most people choose to drift around in those minuscule spaces, lost in a teensy void. I prefer stepping through them, living in each moment rather than in between the ticks. After all, it’s on the puzzle piece where all the wonder, the color, the texture exists, not in those spaces between where there’s nothing but emptiness and fear and nothingness. Time will come when I get to the end of this puzzle. The void will consume me. ‘Till then I’ll follow the only guide I have, my heart, and be kind, loving, forgiving, respectful, and appreciative of all I have while I stand on this colorful piece of human puzzle called life. It’s all I have every been able to do. It’s all I can do. I believe if I do that the void will take care of itself–and me when I get there.
My beloved wife is up. I shall go.
Happy New Year!
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