This post may be a little longer, and a lot harder to write.
Tal and the Virgin Mary
How does one write about faith? How does one even define it?
Faith means... well, a lot. It's a feeling, it's a state of being, it's a promise, a question, a search, a friend, a foe. It's... ephemeral and inexplicable. It just is, and it isn't. But there's a couple reasons why I want to talk about it today.
Some of you reading this may already know this about me, but I used to be quite devout. I don't think I ever felt comfortable talking about how devout I exactly was-- usually I just brush it off and say "I'm agnostic" because it's easier to explain than the truth. But that isn't quite true either.
I was raised by... religious people. Varying degrees of religious, some of my family was at church every Sunday, while others preferred to practice at home. My great-grandmother put Mass on TV every weekend, full volume, when she was too weak to go in person. My childhood friend had suffered a loss that encouraged them to go to church more regularly, and become more devout themselves. I went along with it, started going to church on my own, and took it upon myself to study Catechism and get my First Communion. That's all Catholic speak for saying I took it pretty seriously.
But since I had myself suffered a great loss so young, there was always a crack in the foundation. A doubt which, by definition, is meant to break or strengthen my faith. I constantly wavered between the two. When I was younger, I had only four freckles on my face-- odd, since most people in my family were covered with a LOT of freckles. Not me-- I had four on my nose, that together formed a crucifix. I used to interpret that as a mark of faith, a less painful stigmata. I thought about becoming a nun. I had such awful anxiety and fear that I couldn't sleep unless I was holding a rosary.
Then when I was 12, I proclaimed that I was an atheist. I no longer believed in God, because the bible didn't mention dinosaurs. I also became a vegetarian, but that was more because of a boy I had a crush on.
Not long after, that childhood friend I mentioned lost a family member far too young. I grieved with their entire family, and I went to church with them to support my friend. Then, I kept going. We went to Catechism together, we got our First Communion together. They are still devout, by the way. When I was 18, I told my boss I couldn't work Sunday mornings because I had church. Shortly after that, I lost my faith again. Not for any particular reason, other than I just didn't feel it anymore. Another friend invited me to a Hare Krishna temple, where we chanted and danced and listened to lectures. I admit, it was very uplifting. I liked reading birth charts and Tarot. I was what some might call a "hippy."
What I'm trying to explain here is that-- I have never really known what I believed in. I don't think I can, not in a way that will satisfy my curiosity. So I let it go, I stopped worrying about it and just started letting the world happen. Once I realized I couldn't know the answer, I lost my fear of death. I thought "well, it'll happen when it happens, and I have to live with that." Case closed, anxieties filed away, let's go watch TV. And that worked, for a time. Until about a week ago.
Not a close friend, but a great inspiration. It's still not clear how. I was watching this person on a livestream hours before he died-- suddenly, at age 41. I was just in total shock-- I still feel grief, and I didn't even personally know him. From time to time it hits me again, that an individual who brought my life and the lives of so many fans such joy and goodness and wit and entertainment-- is just suddenly gone.
And that really reminded me of my faith. Or lack thereof. Or not? It just... brings up the question again. I just looked in the mirror and those four freckles on my nose-- they've faded. Unless I pointed them out, you probably wouldn't to see them. And since I wear glasses, they're mostly hidden anyway. But I know they're there still. And I thought to myself: do I believe in God? I want to believe. But... I'm not sure.
I like watching ghost videos. I often considered attending a séance, thinking maybe I could talk to my dad one more time. But I don't believe in ghosts in the traditional sense of "a restless soul that has unfinished business" or whatever. I have my own little theory, that can't be proven, or even tested, so it's hardly a theory. It's just a story I like to tell myself really. But it goes as follows:
Human beings (us) exist in the third dimension. We believe there are more dimensions than three-- we understand the first and the second dimension. Then the third is the way we experience the world. Length x width x depth. It's an oversimplification but you get it. And we know there's a fourth dimension-- I talked about it in my last blog entry if you want to learn more about it. But we're fairly certain there are many more dimensions-- but because we only exist in the third dimension we can't understand any beyond our own. Many theorize the fourth dimension is time-- sorta. It's more like... existence. A path of time-- which combines with space. SORTA. Look I'm not an expert, so bear with me, okay??
In the second dimension, you can go forward, left, back, right. In the third dimension, you can jump up in the air or crouch down to the ground. In the fourth dimension, you can... see time? travel through it? I don't know. But let's just consider the lifetime of one individual person.
If you aren't a fan of Doctor Who, then the words "wibbly wobbly, timey wimey" mean nothing to you. But essentially, time is less a straight line and more a tangled mess of ear buds and computer cables. All of time has already happened, it's always about to happen, and it's always happening as we speak. But since we're only three-dimensional creatures, we can only experience time in a straight line-- we can't go back in time, and we can't go forward.
But-- follow this logic with me. If events in your life are permanent fixtures-- like say the time and place you were born. That doesn't change-- ever. It's permanently there. unless someone tries to fuck with the time-space continuum. All things being equal, you are forever going to be born at that time and space. The same thing will happen when we die-- that point of time space is going to be permanent, we just haven't gotten that far on the timeline. Eventually, your future becomes your past. And at some point in the future, we are all the past.
So this is where my ghost theory comes in. I believe ghosts are not spirits, but rather timelines crossing wires. Like... just one time space continuum bumping into the other. That's how we feel a touch, or hear a whisper, or see things fall off the shelves.
At least, that's how I reconcile my belief in ghosts without a belief in demons and the devil. Because that one, I just can't get behind. You could call it naivety or hope or just plain optimism-- but I don't believe in evil. Not the pure evil that's described as the Devil. I don't think anyone or anything is inherently cruel. I think cruelty happens, because the natural state of the universe is chaos and not everything it creates is meant to be "good."
And when we die, I believe there is nothing. Well, nothing that beings of the third dimension could possibly comprehend. It's not Heaven or Hell, where there's puppies or torture. I think there's just a... transfer of energy. To the next dimension. Once you've shuffled off this mortal coil, you can see all of time and space. Consciousness means something else, personal relationships are irrelevant. I would love to believe that I can see my loved ones when I die.**
Notice I said "I would love to believe" rather than "I believe." And that's a phrase that has haunted me almost my entire life. I wish I could believe. I've said that to myself at some of my darkest moments. I would even pray the rosary, believing no one was listening, because it was more comforting than just saying "life sucks" and suffer in silence. I wanted to believe the Catholic church, and feel comfort when a person passed, I wanted to believe that when I prayed God was listening, and I would never truly be alone. But I can't. My brain just won't let me. Not because I think it's a ridiculous notion (I don't think it is, for the record, I respect everyone's beliefs, except those piece of shit pretentious atheists). I don't think my brain would ever be satisfied with just blind faith, and maybe that's how I fail the test, but I think any devotion on my part would be insincere. I would have to let go of my need to comprehend things, and sometimes that feels like the only thing keeping me sane. If I blindly believed in aliens and bigfoot and haunted houses and the Devil, I'd go mad, seeing the entire world as just one big way to kill me.
But, then I circle back to the fear of death. In reality, I'm not afraid of death. If it happened right now, I'd be at peace. It would be a shame, since I have a lot I want to do, but my timeline is already determined at some point in the future, and I'm just here for the ride. So it's not my death that scares me, it's the deaths of others, and the reason is pretty selfish -- I don't want to feel the pain of loss over and over again. If they die of old age, that's fine, but suddenly? Instantly? Without saying goodbye? That haunts me. I've been so stressed out that I got a rash on my leg. I've never gotten a rash like this, yet it looks familiar. For the first time since I was a child, I ask myself if God is reaching out, touching me, and trying to affirm His existence. I don't actually believe it is, but there's a little seed of doubt somewhere in the back of my mind. Just like I was never really convinced there is a God, I'm not really convinced there isn't.
And that really does make things more difficult. If there's no God, and there's no reason for anything, and the entire universe is a random number generator or a simulation, I guess that's fine. It just seems like a waste of consciousness. We evolved to the point where we can use language and math and I can spout my unfounded beliefs into an internet void that some stranger on the other side of the world will be able to read long after I've died. OR NOT. I don't know the future, maybe the planet is crushed by a meteor, Yellowstone blow and climate change makes the planet uninhabitable. Who the fuck knows? Fourth dimensional beings do, probably. This whole... global pandemic thing is really fucking with my perspective on life. Is it some sort of evolutionary failure that human beings seek comfort and predictability in a universe that is notoriously unstable and constantly evolving? Wouldn't it be better if our little monkey brains were stoked about changes of states and the passage of time?
I wanted to share this sketch called Dr. Kyle, who is played by Trevor Moore. Trevor died suddenly, but he reminds us that life's just a tough break and we gotta take it like a champ.
And so, I end this little rant just as I began it, a little sad and not knowing what to believe.
The question of faith is something I talk a lot in my upcoming project called June, For Short. There will be another blog soon with release details. For now, I say enjoy another beautiful day, I love you.