Saturday, April 28, 2012

Bleeding Faith

Atheist, agnostic, or believer—why not accept Christian practices? Jesus Christ preached love, forgiveness, and nonviolence. Not a bad way to live a life, all in all. 

I know that doesn't speak to the metaphysical aspect of Christianity–that Jesus, born of woman, was the Son of God in human form who came to this outpost of creation to preach the aforementioned love, forgiveness, and nonviolence—and eternal life for the soul—and thereafter was rejected but accepted the divine duty to sacrifice Himself by taking on all human sinfulness.

Even for believers, that is a tough concept to wrap one's head around. Why would God bother about this tiny portion of creation

If you question or simply don't believe the divinity of Jesus, I understand. Moving into this virtual world, I moved away from small town, face-to-face cohesiveness, a place where people might ask Do you have a church home? to meet (and respect) many atheists and agnostics. One thing I've come to think, and there's no way to know for certain, is that the Atheist and Agnostics faiths have increased in membership parallel to the Enlightenment and to the imposition of the scientific method on everyday life. Even The Atlantic speaks to that issue.

I am a Christian believer, believing that the spirit of creation appeared as Jesus, but I also think I am more analytical than emotional. God doesn't speak to me. I search for God. 

And I am analytical enough to admit that it is my self-centered ego that blanches at the idea that we are mere temporary organizations of self-awareness in material form, and that self-awareness (consciousness) will disappear forever when the body incorporating it ceases to function.

I can understand that many people will say my belief in the Creator and the permanence of the individual human spirit is but a myth, that it resonates from our genetic make-up, one leftover from the campfires of primitive ancestors, a plea to a Great Power that the wolves roaming the night will be kept at bay. Others might say it is rooted in Freudian fear, a trembling Ego raging against annihilation.  

In the light of day, I can hold onto faith, an instinctive thing, a thing that has been with me as long as I have been aware intellectually that there is life, and there is death, that my spirit resides in a universe so vast as to be incomprehensible to the human mind (whether we discover the Higg's boson or not). 

But I am weak in my faith. I slip away into doubt when the delicate balance holding this mortal container begins to wobble like a gyroscope winding down past its sustaining momentum.

A month ago I began to bleed, losing blood over a period of hours at a rate that left my fingers blanched white, losing the strength to hold my head erect, blood pressure dropping, dropping, pulse rate soaring, soaring as my body struggled—losing enough blood that the hospital's supply of my specific type was exhausted. 

In the midst of that descent into the darkness, there were dreams. There were visions. There were the lizard-brain decisions that sparked a No and a head-shake when the emergency room physician asked if I wanted to sign a Do Not Resuscitate order. 

But I don't remember praying, unless the instinct to live is a prayer. Nor did I see a tunnel, and a light, so often mentioned by those who have approached the final gate. Nor did I see people waiting for me. Nor did I hear a voice saying my work wasn't done on earth. 

There was only confusion, a dry mouth, the inability to say more than one or two words. The niggling pain of needle-pricks for blood samples and IV, and the bumps and knocks as I was being transferred from stretcher to bed. There was only the present, the moment, the struggle, the fear, the physical evidence that I remained on this earth.

No faith. Optimism, perhaps. Ignorance, certainly. Darkness, red-tinged darkness. But no faith.

I have thought about those hours for weeks now. I have thought about my failure to defeat fear with faith. I have thought about the idea that a person losing faith, temporarily or permanently, in confusion or in panic or in analytical reasoning, doesn't matter a tick to God the Creator, the great I Am. 

Saint Augustine wrote, "Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe."

That works for all of us, doesn't it, atheist, agnostic, faithful, madman and martyr?


Shea Joy said...

Beautiful introspective post, Gary. Glad you are here to share your thoughts with us. Happy Birthday!

Richard Maffeo said...

I agree with Shea. Very well done.

Myra said...

Beautifully written Gary. I especially loved this paragraph:

But I am weak in my faith. I slip away into doubt when the delicate balance holding this mortal container begins to wobble like a gyroscope winding down past its sustaining momentum.

imfunnytoo said...

frightening for you, but wonderful for us that you wrote about.

Maggie said...

Glad to hear you are still on-planet after an experience like that!

Much of this post is beautifully resonant with me, even though I'm a practicing Pagan who was raised in a Christian Protestant community and has rejected the teachings I received there. [Full disclosure: from my personal perspective, Jesus appears as an important historical figure with some unusual talents, whose followers have sometimes done wonderful things and other times made a mess.]

Whether the facts turn out to be that the Soul goes to a Christian Heaven when the Body stops operating, as I was taught in church; or alternatively that the Soul returns to the Universal Consciousness when the Body no longer houses it, as some of my coreligionists suppose; or some third thing ...

What is clear to me from my own experiences with death is that something essential persists after the body stops. For myself, the ego is often quite concerned that it might not be part of that 'something', which seems to be the basis of my occasional fear of death. And yet, the reassurance of my own experiences with Divinity (WHOever that actually is) means that most of the time I have no fear of death at all.

I so appreciate what you write, and how deeply you share yourself with the blogosphere. It is a joy to witness these parts of your life.

Wishing you plenty of love, light and laughter in all you do