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 …
There are moments when I stare up at the night’s sky and feel truly insignificant. The speck of carbon standing upon a rock trying to convince itself to the vastness of the universe that it matters. That it has a purpose. Nothing scares me more than imagining a world without me. How it all goes away with a blink of an eye. Maybe that’s why humanity is fast to hold on to their gods and conjure up new ones.
I spent a lot of my days being angry. Or being sad. Or being uncertain. Questioning my actions and the actions of others. Doing my best to balance the world on my shoulders. Focusing on the what ifs and the maybe whens, but never in the now. I turned thirty-four Monday, and I’m not sure if others are better at life than I am. Or if they’re just better at pretending they are.
There are moments when the anger boils over. When the cool, calm, collected me weighs in. “Remember, holding on to a grudge is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies.”
“My grudges matter!” I shout out into the infinite. “My anger for being replaced by the woman I vowed to love with every fiber of my being. My anger at the man who abandoned me. The man who didn’t teach me what it’s like being a man. I’m angry at my grandfathers for dying too soon. The grudge I hold for the girl who only remembers me when no one else dares speak her name. These petty, miniscule problems that don’t add up to a footnote in the grander scheme—they matter.”
I fucking matter!
I press up against the wall of the church. Not the same one I attended in my youth, but it holds the same name. I sputter out a cough, a sigh. A muffled, panicked yell. Is this why people turn to religion? Is this what it’s all about? The great lie that we are more than what we are? Designed in the image of a creator? Its children? All for the sake to pretend we continue existing after we have pass into the unknown?
Someone once asked me if I ever considered going back. If believing seemed easier than just living. And it’s something I thought a lot about in the past. Not these days. These days I’m a Hemingway-ian character. The man waiting for devoutness to take him. But it never comes. Not like it did for the people in his family.
To quote Art Alexakis, “Livin’ isn’t a simple thing.“
I suck in a breath. Steady myself. Push myself from the catholic brick and continue on. A crutch. Something I haven’t needed in years, no matter how vulnerable. No matter how broken. No matter how lost I felt.
I spent a lot of my days angry. Angry at the man who left me as a child. Angry at the fact that I didn’t hold on to the woman I loved. Angry at the fact that I allowed someone selfish into my life because I’m a sucker for a cute face and an act of innocence. Angry at myself for not being better than this. Angry at all those who crossed my path and left me longing for their presence. And all these things matter.
Mattered to me.
Because looking up at the night’s sky. Feeling so small, so insignificant in the expanse of the entire universe. Knowing that on some distant planet there is a person just like me staring at his night’s sky and feeling that existential crisis that I’ve felt every day since the concept of my mortality was introduced. They just don’t feel all that important, you know?
One day, I will cease to exist. And while that scares the living shit out of me every night, there’s nothing I can do to stop it. So I’ll embrace death with an open heart. I’ll let it in when it asks. I don’t pretend to know the truth; that’s part of reason I’m an atheist.
Maybe someday, religion will find me. Or I’ll find some form of a higher power. Maybe I’ll be at peace in my meditation or prayer. But I wouldn’t hold my breath.
For now, at thirty-four, I’m content enough to just find my importance while feeling so damn insignificant.