The Answer is 42   2 comments

I’ve copied this from my LiveJournal blog where it was originally posted on February 27, 2005 and am putting it here for my own record and safe-keeping.  As well, I’m adding the comment made by my LiveJournal friend, “Mouse Gerald,” who will be gone from this world a year on March 24.    He committed suicide at the age of 42.  If any of the folks who have access to his LiveJournal account were to delete it, his comments would disappear from my journal and I don’t want to lose his words to me.  I want his memory to live on.  The post follows:

Everyone needs something to believe in, as the saying goes, and I always finish that statement by saying, “…and I believe I’ll have another beer.”  Spiritually, I’m not sure how to finish that sentence, and that blank ending has caused me moments of concern and emptiness in my adult life. 
I grew up in a family that was generically Protestant.  In my very young years, my parents did not attend church.  I attended Sunday School as a preschooler at several different Protestant churches – I believe that a couple of them were Lutheran, although when you’re a preschooler, it hardly matters – that I was taken to courtesy of the neighbors.  I learned the standard Bible stories of God, Moses, Jesus, etc.  I learned the Ten  Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer.  The usual Christian fare.  I earned my very own St. James version Bible when I was about nine-years-old from St. Paul Lutheran Church where I went with a neighbor friend for a time.  This was a reward for being able to recite the names of the books of the Bible in order.

 

Shortly thereafter, my parents actually began regular church attendance at the East Market Street Church of God, some nondescript Protestant church that they were introduced to by neighbors.  My mother was baptized by total immersion, which was kind of cool.  Following suit, I was baptized by the same dunking ritual when I was ten-years-old.  I don’t know what brand of Christian that made me, but it seemed like an important event in my life.

Interestingly enough, what was very significant in my spiritual life was this was the year that my parents enrolled me at St. Mary’s parochial grade school in Akron, Ohio.  During the summer between fourth and fifth grades, a neighborhood family was tending to me during the day while my folks were at work.  Their daughter went to St. Mary’s, and my mother shared her woes that I was not being well-educated at the local public school.   This was very true.  We lived in a neighborhood that was in a downward economic spiral, and the public schools in the district were poorly run and becoming downright dangerous as students entered the junior and senior high school branches of the system.  St. Mary’s at that point did not have any non-Catholic students in their system, but Mrs. Mealey encouraged my mother to consult with them about taking me in as a student.  One August day, we visited with Mother LuAnn at the convent, she looked me over, talked with my mom, and for a modest tuition of $100 a year, they signed me up as their first non-Catholic student.  I started 5th grade there in the fall of 1965.

I became a practicing Catholic by total immersion into the culture.  I went to mass every morning (still said in Latin at that point) before beginning my school day.  I Hail Mary’ed with the best of them.  I memorized all my catechism questions and answers.  I went over to the church with the class on the first Friday of every month and sat in line with them while each student waited in the pews for his or her turn to go into the Confessional and receive the sacrament of Penance.  Of course, as a non-Catholic, I couldn’t receive the Sacraments, but I went along with the whole ritual as far as my non-Catholic status would allow me.

Of course, when I found out that the Catholic faith was the one true Faith and only Catholics went to Heaven, I was mortified.  I shed copious, grief-stricken tears over my sinful, wayward non-Catholic status.  I begged my parents to allow me to convert to Catholicism, which resulted in them threatening to pull me out of St. Mary’s if I ever brought up the subject again.

I became a closet Catholic, going to mass every morning, saying my rosary under the covers at night, praying that God would forgive me for my renegade status until such a time as I could become a “true” Catholic.  In 7th grade, I discussed this problem with my teacher, Sister Mary Pascaline, and she in turn talked to my mother.  I finally received my parents permission, if not their blessing, to proceed with the conversion.  I was baptized the week before Christmas in 1967, made my first Confession a day or so later, and received my First Communion on Christmas morning with Sister Pascaline beside me.  It was all very emotional and moving to me.  I belonged someplace at last.

I began high school at St. Mary’s in the fall of 1969.  (Basically, the grade school occupied a handful of rooms on the first floor of the building, and the high school occupied the basement rooms, a couple of the rooms on the first floor, and the entire second and third floors.  I went from wearing a red plaid uniform to wearing a blue plaid uniform.)  Two things happened at the end of my freshman year.  The first was my confirmation classes in preparation for receiving the sacrament of Confirmation that spring.  The second was a mandatory religious retreat in which we viewed a film of teenagers debating the issue of whether or not there was a god.  Of course, the intent of the film was to put the debate to rest by assuring us that of course there was a god, but it had the opposite effect on me.  I obviously was ripe for thinking about that whole issue, and ponder it, I did.  Exhaustively.

Logic argued that the personification of a god and all the dogma I had been taught to date by the Catholic Church was in all likelihood not true.  I quit going to church.  I “lost my faith.”   To make a long story short, I graduated from Catholic high school in the spring of 1973, but my faith never did really return for more than a couple of brief flickers along the way.  I never became a practicing Catholic again.

I was not involved in a church congregation until after my move to the Twin Cities in the spring of 1976.  It was probably the following year that I became involved with the Metropolitan Community Church (“All God’s Children”).  I was in a period of actively evaluating my sexual orientation and linked up with this avenue as a way to bring me into contact with the GLBT community in an organized fashion.  I attended church services off and on for about two years, and this was the circle of friends I socialized with.  It provided a needed community for me at that time of soul-searching, but I just couldn’t get into the Alleluia’s and Praise-the-Lord’s and hymns and other Christian rituals involved.  I still couldn’t wrap my head and heart around that personification of a deity, and the right-wing Christian groups who publically condemned the very people I considered my closest friends did nothing to endear that branch of religion to me.  In fact, I found that condemning brand of Christianity to be repugnant.  Still do.  Exposure to it makes my blood feel like ice water in my veins.  No deity that I would want any part of would ever treat people like that!

 

My church attendance at MCC eventually came to an end, and that was my last involvement in organized religion of any sort. 

 

I would like to believe in a Higher Power, but I don’t really.  I know that I absolutely do not believe in an onmipotent “God the Father” sort of deity who knows all and sees all and gave his Only Son to be Our Savior.  Just can’t buy into that whole concept.  I can’t buy into any religion who would presume to believe that it is the only True Religion and discounts anyone else’s beliefs.

 

The best I can come up with in terms of “spiritual beliefs” is the concept of universal energy, that energy is neither created nor destroyed but remains in the world in different forms.  That’s our common bond and what links past to present and present to future.  This energy can manifest itself in many different forms.

I believe in the “brotherhood” sort of concept, that we’re all in this together as members of the human race.  If there is a concept to take away from the teachings of Jesus, it is, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  The dude had some good ideas when it came to how we should be treating each other, and I’m sure he’s spinning in his grave at the way we’ve distorted his teachings to include war, hate and intolerance in his name.

I don’t have answers to the mysteries of the universe.  Do human beings have a soul?  Is there such a thing as an afterlife?  Is there a Supreme Being who goes by God or Allah  or Yaweh or some other name?  I don’t know.  I can’t even get ice cubes out of the frigging tray! 

I figure that whatever is up with all these things is going to continue to be the case whether or not I have it all figured out.  These things exist independently of whatever I believe.  I can’t will them into existence or make them go away because of what I think or believe.  It is what it is, and if I don’t have the brain (or “soul”) power to comprehend it all, then that’s how it is.  I’m sure I have plenty of company in that regard!

Yes, there are many times when I feel small, insignificant and lonely because I don’t grasp tightly to this idea of a Higher Power.  I actually do wish I had something definitive to believe in.  But I’m just not there with it.  Maybe someday I will be, and I’ll continue to talk about it and think about it.  I’ll continue to be open to the thoughts and feelings of my loved ones and friends.  I’ll try to continue to grow in wisdom and not stagnate in life. 

What more can I do?

And Mouse Gerald’s comments to me that I wish to always preserve:

 

Questioning can be a lonely business. Sometimes I think how much easier it would be to just be one of the unquestioning flock, accepting the Bible or the Koran or the Torah or the inside of a matchbook cover as definitive Truth, period. But I also think there’s something inherently wrong with accepting as truth anything which can’t be proved. How does the one who’s telling you this “truth” know it to be such? Because the holy book says so? Because the holy book is the word of God/Allah/Krishna/Bobo the Magic Monkey? Did they write the holy book? No. Men wrote the holy book, and men are fallible creatures vulnerable to their own petty desires and faulted interpretations.
I think if God really wanted us to know a definitive Truth, God would have penned the holy book Hirself and said, “Here it is.”

Man says God didn’t do that because God would rather have us exercise faith. Man would say that, wouldn’t he? What else is there to say? That God had writer’s cramp that day so decided to dictate a few paragraphs instead and leave Hir holy copy editors to fill in the blanks?

I’m happy when sheep are happy, because history shows us that when they’re not, bad things happen to cows and pigs and buildings and countries and pretty much anybody who’s not sheep. It’s just too bad that they can’t be happy with simply being happy, that so many of them need everyone else to experience their brand of happiness too, because that’s probably never going to happen.

> I shed copious, grief-stricken tears over my sinful, wayward non-Catholic status.

That is so, so sad.

I’m glad you finally got what you thought you wanted. At least you had the experience of traveling that road, and no one can ever question your conviction.

No human being has ever known The Truth in hir mortal life. Believing in something wholeheartedly and Knowing The Truth are two different things, and it’s not in our cards to have the definitive answer while we’re here. It’s one of the many frustrations we cause ourselves with our big brains. If our brains were just a tiny bit bigger, maybe we’d be smart enough to not question, but they’re not, so we do.

Have you ever read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books by Douglas Adams? The series explains many wondrous things, including that the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything, is 42. That is, beyond a doubt, the One True Answer.

The problem is, we never thought to figure out exactly what the question is.

My guess is knowing we’re never going to know the answer in this lifetime is actually about as close to the answer as we’re likely to get.    

 

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2 responses to “The Answer is 42

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  1. Excellent post, Bonnie! Thanks for pointing me to it and for sharing your experiences. I enjoyed reading it very much. I have a feeling I’ll be quoting from it in the near future, if you don’t mind.

  2. If you find something worthwhile in here to quote, you may certainly do so as you see fit! Thanks for reading through all this, Lottie.

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