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For C.N. — I’m not exactly sure what you’re going through, but I wanted to share a few words with you.

How do they keep at it like this? All that jabbering,
When just breathing the humid air feels like drowning.
There are so many good things in life I’ve overlooked.

There are times when silence feels like our only friend. Like a vacancy consumes our hearts and our minds cannot fathom a reasonable explanation for the darkness that seeps through the cracks of our cerebellum. And we claw at the wall in hopes to find sure-footing so that we may one day escape the prisons we built for ourselves. Where being alone seems to heal all things and ease all things. And within all things we may find nothing but disappointment in ourselves because we’re not good enough. We’re not perfect enough to love. That we deserve what we’re given and should accept it as a noble truth.

We don’t have to speak. Not a word shared between us in confession or in contrition. Because my words cannot bring you comfort anymore than you can. Because, in the end, every one must bear the burden of his own sins and every person must be the fabricator of their own salvation, that not even a god can do for us what self-help in the form of self-conquest and self-emancipation can accomplish.

We are the twin verses. The sacred truths. We are the light and darkness in each other. For anger breeds anger, hatred breeds hatred. Joy breeds joy and love breeds love. And I have lived through both. I have seen my hands cause pain and I felt my heart take delight in such pain. And I have seen my hands bring peace and I felt my heart take delight in such peace. Let us be like the bright gods, and feed off the happiness.

I once asked you not to apologize to me. Apologies are not a sign of weakness, they are a sign of strength. And strength shouldn’t be taken so lightly. Apologize for the things done within your control. Apologize for the words spoken in anger or the slap that escapes your hand.

I’ve done some terrible things in my life that I can never apologize for. That I cannot take back. I let the anger and hatred fester in my heart and I have seen the tears spilled for me. Tears that are worth more than the cost of my existence. And for years, I lived in anger. For years, I didn’t think of the feelings of others. And for years, I abused and misused those who were unfortunate enough to love me. And each time I did, an apology escaped my lips. An apology that wasn’t worth a pound of truth because I never learned from the mistakes I made.

And for this, I do not deserve the apologies of others. Because these are the demons I carry with me. These are sins that burden me each day. And until I can right these wrongs, I do not want to hear a word of apology spoken to me.

I created a set of rules and a code of morals and ethics for myself. Guidelines spawned from common sense and various religions and social contracts. I have carved my own buddhism, my own christianity.

With everything, within all, there is hope. There is light. There is peace. There is love and there is solace. And one day, I hope to share it with those I love most.

Just a quick note: I wrote this entire post while listening to this song—your recording—on a continuous loop. It just felt right.
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All Paths to God

Even the lost find their way home

The first time I heard of the concept – vocalized, anyway – of “all paths to god” was in the kitchen of a friend. El Senor and I paid Chico a visit after we spent some time talking with Reverend Adam Zuniga. And it’s strange to think that two worldly different people – Adam and Chico – could hold similar religious ideals. Chico called it the pigeonholing of God; Adam stated that one must believe in their own way. When you’re an agnostic like me – which is often referred to as a temporal agnostic – you’re pretty much that lone traveler on the road searching for a way home. Or at least someone to talk to. Every mile you step, you hope you’re closer to some answer, some guidance or comfort. We might not be looking to prove that a higher power exists or doesn’t, we just want to know the answers.

I’m generalizing a bit here – let me be clear to state that not all temporal agnostics feel lost. But it’s the closest form of agnosticism that I fit into.

Chico explained the pigeon-holing of god to us – El Senor, being an Atheist and I being Agnostic, this conversation was riddled with joke and what not. I only wish I’d taken notes on what Chico said, but the gist is this – everyone, deep down, whether they know it or not, worships, praises, and prays to the same god. We’re all living on the side of the mountain, climbing up to the peak. We might have different ways of getting there, but essentially the outcome is the same. Be it peace, heaven, nirvana, etc.

Another way of putting it is the example I found on Yahoo! Answers:

All paths to God means that all religions worship various aspects of the SAME God. Even the Christians worship only part of the one God. Here’s another way to look at this. There is a story of 4 blind men trying to describe an Elephant. One grabs a hold of his leg and determines that the elephant must be like a large tree. Another grabs the trunk and determines the elephant is a type of snake. Another grabs and ear and says that the elephant is large and flat, like a pancake. The last is on the elephant’s back and declares that the elephant is like a small mountain. Which one of these blind men is right?

Another analogy is to think of a group of riders going up a mountain riding donkeys — each donkey has a different name, but all the people make it up the hill anyway. So is it important that the donkey’s names are different?

In Huston Smith‘s words, “To claim salvation as the monopoly of any one religion is like claiming that God can be found in this room and not the next.” It’s an interesting thought, but is it true? Considering that Buddhists don’t believe in god, Christians believe in one and Hindus believing in several – thousands? – it seems like a man who’s decided to end the battle between religions. And as Christianity is on the decline and Islam is skyrocketing, it’s no wonder that this idea is still growing. No one wants to be left out in the dark with the “wrong” idea.

Mormons come into mind when it comes to the “wrong” idea, because Mormons think they’ve got it right, down to a science even. And I’m not saying that Mormon’s are wrong – though I disagree with them when it comes to several things – but they believe that they’re church is the church of God and of Jesus. “There’s no wrong way to pray,” one elder told me. “But let me teach you the right way.”

Cover of "God Is Not One: The Eight Rival...
Cover via Amazon

I’m reading God is Not One by Stephen Prothero, and while I tend to claim that religions – deep down inside – are essentially the same, the book has enlightened me that it is unfair of me or anyone else – doubter, believer or non-believer – to assume such things.

 

And this is where Chico and Adam differ. Where Chico claims that we’re all living on the same mountain (obviously, not his words), climbing to the same goal. His beliefs claimed that God has spread different beliefs to different people in order for them to understand. That meaning, each religious group was taught differently on purpose so they could grasp the concept based on past beliefs. Yeah, my words aren’t that great when it comes to describe other people’s thoughts.

Adam, however, states a more Buddhist approach to the notion: “We must make our own creation myth.” To practice a religion in a way that best suits us. Or to practice several religions at once – incorporating Christian belief in our Buddhist practices. There is no wrong way, in other words, as long as our beliefs and practices doesn’t inflict harm on anyone else – so no cults.

As for me, I’m still searching for some sort of comfort. Some sort of solace. The solace of knowing something that I’m not to know – technically, anyway – until my death.

Currently listening to “I am Terrified” by IAmX

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The Agnostic Who Believed in Charity

 

I noticed the crack, too

If you mean by a “Christian” a man who loves his neighbor, who has wide sympathy with suffering, and who ardently desires a world freed from the cruelties and abominations which at present disfigure it, then, certainly, you will be justified in calling me a Christian. And, in this sense, I think you will find more “Christians” among agnostics than among the orthodox.

The other day, I tweeted something that came to mind. This past weekend, outside of Barnes and Noble, I was hit up by a homeless family. Now I’ve seen this family several times already, and I’ve given them money most of the time – sometimes, I only have my card on me. Despite their situation – meaning, whether they’re actually going to use the money I give them for food or if they’re going to spend it on booze – I do my best to give as much as possible. And like I tell people, I judge the amount I hand out based on the story they tell me. This is only a half joke.

It always gets me, however, when they end the “transaction” with “Que dios de la bendiga – God bless you.” My kindness isn’t god motivated. I don’t think it ever was, or ever will be. There isn’t a Christian thought that passes my head when I decide to give someone down on his luck a couple of bucks – I usually stop at $5. And what they do with the money is their business, like I said. It’s their guilty conscience they’ll have to deal with later for feeding addictions and not feeding themselves.

People who don’t know me, however, don’t buy this. And sometimes I joke about it, as well. Everyone thinks I give because there is some doubt in me about the existence of a higher power. And I’d be lying if I denied this. But, helping others isn’t exclusively Christian:

Apart from other objections to it, it seems rude to Jews, Buddhists, Mohammedans, and other non-Christians, who, so far as history shows, have been at least as apt as Christians to practice the virtues which some modern Christians arrogantly claim as distinctive as their own religion.

In other words, showing kindness to your neighbor and helping the needy isn’t something invented in the minds of those who followed Christ, but has always existed. I don’t help people because some omnipotent watches down on me, spreading his benevolence through me, but because it essentially makes me feel better about my life.

As much as it may sound foreign to believers’ ears, Atheists and Agnostics are probably more charitable towards others than those who proclaim it’s a trait of their religion. And we’re all, essentially, aiming for the same thing. Although, Atheists and Agnostics are more incline to experience a “heaven” on earth idea, than one afterward.

After I gave that family the three dollars I had in my wallet, Jyg and I went home. On the drive, she asked me if it was the same family she’d seen before. I mentioned it probably was. She, as did I, remembered the child being just a baby when they first showed up in McAllen. By the looks of the child, that was probably three years ago.

“Did he speak in English?”

“No,” I said. “He said, ‘May god bless you.'” After a moment’s pause, “It bugs me when they say that. A simple thank you would suffice. Then again, if I’m wrong about this whole deal, I might just slip by St. Peter.”

Once again, the text quoted in this post is from “What is an Agnostic?” by Bertrand Russell, which you can read here.

 

Doldrums

I, Agnostic

My man, Buddha

The person who needs religion to bolster up his own purposes is a timorous person, and I cannot think as well of him as of the man who takes his chances, while admitting that defeat is not impossible. —Bertrand Russell, “What is an Agnostic?”

Before you go jumping down my throat with arguments against this thought that I shall present to you in a few moments, let me explain that it has taken me years on contemplation and conversation that has brought me to it. You see, the idea was placed in my head several years by the ghost I call Alice – who isn’t a real ghost, so much as a very real person who has the tendency of returning to my world whenever it pleases her the most. After several dreams that presented my maternal grandmother, I confided in her that I was losing my wits, my grasp on reality. Her explanation was Hispanic Catholic in fashion – “The dead communicate to us through our dreams so they are not forgotten.”

To any other person, this might have calmed my nerves. It might have even comforted me, knowing that somewhere out there, my grandmother was watching down on me, still guiding me through this world. Only, I’m not any other person. I’m me, and that’s a person who once – or still does believe – that once we die, that’s pretty much it for us. Our memory will continue on for a few short weeks, months or years, but after that, life must continue on. We are essentially over.

“We all have to believe in something,” Alice said. “It’s in human nature to believe in [a higher power].”

Being very much human, I found it rather insulting. After a few years thought, however, I’ve come to accept her simplistic explanation why several of us still look up to the sky and think someone is looking back down – with the expect of the paranoid/delusional people out there as there is probably several people looking down on them, waiting to make their move.

Then explain the rest of us, you ask? I’m not very pithy with words, so just read this, this and this for further explanation. Hell, even read this. Evolution is my usual suspect for things like this, however. Evolution is always the go-to reason, like Hitler is the go-to example in Ethics.

So why am I an agnostic and not a full blown Atheist? Is it because I’m not fully evolved – as if Agnostics are the link between believers and Atheists. I’ll turn to my man, Bertrand Russell to answer this one for me:

An agnostic thinks it impossible to know the truth in matters such as God and the future life with which Christianity and other religions are concerned.

Okay, I get why you’re not a Christian, but why aren’t you an Atheist? Mr. Russell doesn’t like to be interrupted, is my answer to that question. Please continue, Bertrand:

The Agnostic suspends judgment, saying that there are not sufficient grounds either for affirmation or for denial. At the same time, an Agnostic may hold that the existence of God, though not imp0ssible, is very improbable; he may even hold it so improbable that it is not worth considering in practice.

It’s simple – I’m a creature of evidence. Just because I’ve never seen a UFO doesn’t mean I’m going to disregard the possibility of life on other planets – though, I will probably disregard you if you ever told me you’ve seen an alien or UFO. And while I’ll leave the window open for the god possibility, I’m not going to let the possibility rule my life, decide my fate without my regard. In other words, I refuse the role of sheep among shepherds.

As Russell would say, I believe “a man should think out questions of conduct for himself.” Or better yet, the Buddhists said it best – “every one must bear the burden of his own sins, that every man must be the fabricator of his own salvation, that not even a God can do for man what self-help in the form of self-conquest and self-emancipation can accomplish.” (Of course, both of these quotes can relate to Atheists, as well.)

Like Russell states – “he will seek to profit by the wisdom of others” – I’ve sought out several people whose wisdom and intelligence has molded my thoughts and insights. It doesn’t make me any less “human” or “Christian,” in my mannerisms. But that, in of itself, is a topic for a later date.

Meaning, tomorrow.

Texts used within the post:

  1. What is an Agnostic?” by Bertrand Russell
  2. A Buddhist Bible edited by Dwight Goddard
Books

Religious Texts

Carlin was god

I’m not a religious man, but I do like religion. Like most of the things that pique my interest, religion confuses me. I was raised Catholic and I did most of the Catholic things. I was baptized in the church – which, if you really think about it, was against my will. I made my first confession in the third grade – the simple things, didn’t want to confess my “darkest” sins to the priest (who might have been turned on by some of the things I did…yeah, yeah. TMI, I know). I made it all the way to my first Communion. Never made it to Confirmation, though. By the time that rolled around, I had divorced myself from the church.

I danced through religions in hopes to find some sort of solace. From the major to the downright laughable religions – Wicca or Raelian, anyone? – there’s nothing out there that brought me peace of mind. All except, Buddhism.

…every one must bear the burden of his own sins, that every man must be the fabricator of his own salvation, that not even a God can do for man what self-help in the form self-conquest and self-emancipation can accomplished.  —A Buddhist Bible, edited by Dwight Goddard

While I don’t subscribe to Buddhist mythology, their way of viewing the world – viewing life – is akin to how I feel about it. My ethical code – moral code – derives from a simple phrase I heard when I was a kid: Do good. However, “good” is relative. The philosophy then settled to “don’t screw people over.” Though, after living for nearly 28 years on this planet, I know some people deserved to have the wool pulled over their eyes. In the end, it settled to “do good and do not screwing over innocents.” It’s a far cry from the Dalai Lama’s words: “If you can, help others; if you can’t do that, at least do not harm them.”

When I met Rev. Adam E. Zuniga of the Hawai’i Cannabis Ministry a few years ago, he taught the importance of adaptation. Quoting the Dalai Lama – and I’m paraphrasing now – he told me, “My form of Buddhism might not be right for everyone, but it’s right for me.” People have been getting it wrong. Rather than allowing your religion’s dogma change your personal philosophy, you should alter your religion’s dogma to better the world.

I’ve altered Buddhism and some Christian aspects (which, if you really boil it all down, it’s all the same thing with different characters) to mold my philosophy. I don’t deny Christ existed, but I also don’t believe he was something other than a philosopher who mixed Judaism mythology with Buddhist philosophy. Jesus is probably a prime example of the whole religion adaptation, if you think about it – though some of you will probably call me blasphemous for suggesting it.

And I think that’s one of the reasons that I decided to read several religious texts next year – including Buddhist texts, parts of the Bible, gnostic gospels, parts of The Dead Sea Scrolls, pagan texts and even the much plagiarized Satanic Bible – yes, for you die hard Satanists, LaVey plagiarized several different texts to compile his “unholy” text. I’ll post a list over on A Book Hunter’s Journal when I get a better idea of what I plan to read.

One more thing: Last night, I was watching an interview show hosted by Chelsea Handler. Anne Hathaway was talking about her family’s decision to leave the Catholic church after her brother came out of the closet. She explained how they didn’t feel right belonging to a church that didn’t value the same things they did.

I found that empowering. Hopefully one day, religions who are still stuck in the past will catch up with society.