Thursday, May 24, 2012

Wearing The Cross Of My Calling.

"Oh, to vex me, contraries meet in one:
Inconstancy unnaturally hath begot
A constant habit; that when I would not
I change in vows, and in devotion.
As humorous is my contrition
As my profane love, and as soon forgot:
As riddlingly distempered, cold and hot,
As praying, as mute; as infinite, as none.
I durst not view heaven yesterday; and today
In prayers and flattering speeches I court God:
Tomorrow I quake with true fear of his rod.
So my devout fits come and go away
Like a fantastic ague; save that here
Those are my best days, when I shake with fear."
- John Donne
I don't believe in a god. I really don't. Except, of course, when I lose my wallet. Or when I come close to dying, like that time I ran the car off the road and ended up driving along in a ditch at a hundred ks an hour. Or when I know I'm going to get in a lot of trouble, when the drama is going to come crashing down all over me. Or that time at St Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin. At those times I turn full Catholic. Thirteen or fourteen years of indoctrination is hard to shake, and sometimes I even find myself praying. The Hail Mary is a hell of a prayer - it has that "Pray for us sinners / Now, and at the hour of our death" bit at the end, which really resonates when you're about to do something incredibly stupid. I sometimes add in a "But especially now" at the end, which doesn't have papal approval, but which adds nicely to the urgency. 
I don't believe in god, but in a way I think this makes me a sellout, that when it gets difficult to believe that there's nothing else there, there's no one looking out for you, who stopped you from dying, who can save you from the mess you're in, who knows where your wallet is, I retreat back into the cosy arms of a monotheistic, all-knowing, interventionist almighty being. If I depend on these stories - and lets face it, any religion is just a set of stories, answers invented in order to facilitate the human impulse to explain - when I'm in a bad way, surely I should also own it when the sun is shining.

I don't believe in a god. But I've been brought up with the imagery, the iconography, the stories and the rituals, and they all still have meaning to me beyond a deity. I have a dictionary of the saints - those guys who allegedly performed miracles, not the band - and though I don't believe in miracles, I like reading about them, about how devout they were, about what they did to prove their faith. I used to have a St Anthony's medallion on my keyring, and even though he's no longer responsible for Lost Things, I never lost my keys. Plus, that was the name I took for my confirmation. I'm pretty sure I just thought it was a cool name at the time, but over the years it has taken on further meaning.

I don't believe in a god. But I do believe in faith. In believing in things that can't be proven or explained. In fact, some times I believe that explanations aren't necessary, that it's in our best interests to accept things as they are without trying to figure them out. That's not easy, though, and that's why I sometimes try to fill the great gaping chasms of uncertainty with those easy answers that I grew up with. In fact, this is probably the worst thing that religion does - provides us with answers when there shouldn't be any. Lulling us into a false sense of security, telling us that there will always be an answer, a beginning, middle and ending. 

I don't believe in a god. But I also believe in redemption. That there are ways to make things right, that sometimes you have to work really hard for it, but that bad situations can be fixed. Redemption and faith are intertwined, however. In the midst of working hard for something you have to believe that what you're doing is right. No matter what.

I don't believe in a god, but I do believe in community. After a year of failing, I'm lacking faith at the moment. Whenever I go out on the bike I'm nervous. No, calling it nervous is minimizing it, being dishonest. I'm fucking scared. It's always ok at the time, but a couple of hours afterwards, if I'm even the littlest bit tired, I freak out. I'm working hard for redemption, to get back to where I was, but I'm not sure that I'm on the right path. It's at this time that I depend on people to remind me that I'm ok, that it's normal, that I should just eat a sandwich and I'll be fine. Hearing someone say, "Brendan, I know you'll be fine," is pretty much the best thing for me at the moment. Even if I'm not sure if it's true. Their faith in me is enough.

No comments: