My Expanding Vision of “Believing in Everything”

http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevefe/18931518/Last week while I was reading the Bhagavad Gita I listened to Christine Kane‘s album Rain & Mud & Wild & Green even as I went through the part about “one-pointedness” that described how background music keeps one from being fully aware what she is studying. The iPod was necessary to block the rest of the sounds from a busy Sunday afternoon at our house; plus, splitting my attention lead me to realize the way the lyrics of “One Once More” spoke directly to me, especially a past, cherished version of myself.

The song starts:

Saints and Valkyries
Runes and rosaries
I believe in everything I guess

As I sift through various traditions and sacred writings, I feel I am someone who can find something beautiful and worthy in countless corners because I am not worried about finding the One in a single book or building.

An old friend’s comment on my blog today reminded me of the person he first got to know when I was on my year abroad in Galway during the junior year of college. The twenty year old that I was railed against governments and religions over endless pints of imported lager, shocking as many people as possible with her feminism and her convenient radicalism and her ecstatic pagan ways. Now, my political views are more informed and less strident, but mean more to me; my feminism is a softer, lived-in ethic rather than a jubilant in-your-face volley of girl power. At this point, my radicalism is stewing more quietly, but with a great deal more potential as I actually feel poised to be the change I wish to see in world, opposed to just arguing in the pubs about what ought to be done. These days I’ll drink a bit of Guinness and become still as I tell you that I think I’ve finally discovered what I am meant to do in this world, that this spiritual quest may just be it.

A few years ago, the symbols in Christine’s song would have been what captured my imagination, esoteric collector of sacred talismans that I was. I was an indiscriminate and undisciplined believer, just looking for a few traces of magic in a world that seemed all too cruel and mundane.

As I feel what it might be to mature into my relationship with the world and the sacred, and I look beyond the spiritual souvenirs to the truth behind the rituals, I can reevaluate the habit of believing in “everything.” Now, I can begin to understand what it is to look at all paths to the Divine with an open heart, even the one with the weight of two thousand tumultuous years of Western World defining history behind it. The major religions today are tied to terrorism and sexism and homophobia and countless other prejudices. Due to these social concerns, I do not have to subscribe to any of them completely, perhaps, but I cannot assume that my modern political consciousness makes me wiser than millennia of saints and mystics and prophets. The beauty of their thoughts may not nullify the contemporary manifestations of their respective faiths, but it makes their religions worthy of much more than a second glance.

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3 thoughts on “My Expanding Vision of “Believing in Everything”

  1. Ruaidhri January 16, 2008 / 5:43 pm

    “The major religions today are tied to terrorism and sexism and homophobia and countless other prejudices. Due to these social concerns, I do not have to subscribe to any of them completely, perhaps, but I cannot assume that my modern political consciousness makes me wiser than millennia of saints and mystics and prophets.”

    Your modern consciousness does mean you are wiser then millenia of saints, mystics and prophets. You have the benefit of hundreds of years of cultural, philosophical, and scientific knowledge and wisdom which was not available to them. You start of with an advantage they never had. Modern thought, especially since and because of the enlightenment, is much better then any insight a hermit sitting in a lice and plague infested hut. We get to choose the best and weed out the worst, I suppose-a natural selection of ideas. And remember-those saints and mystics are as much responsible for transmitting the sexism,homophoba, and general evil of organised religion as they are for the beauty of their thoughts. Which just shows what humanity is like doesn’t it?

    However the main problem I have with the acceptance of those religions, even with liberal and pick and choose versions of those religions is that these condone and somehow protect the more fundamentalist and literal versions. I think the anglican church is actually a good example here-we have the liberal side being ok with the gays and the evangelical side foaming at the mouth because of the gay…and it more often ends up with the liberals caving into the fundies. Or the liberal catholics who have no compunctions with using condoms or the pill themselves, but actively support an organisation which tells millions of africans at risk for HIV that not only are condoms ineffective against HIV but that it actually causes AIDS.

    I suppose my point of the ramblings is that it is ok to throw the baby out with the bathwater in this situation. Especially since there never was a baby and all that’s in the basin is dirty water.

    Yes there is a spiritual compunction to life-but why accept an organisation which has and does benefit from the suffering of others?And by only looking for the ‘nice’ Christians with their liberal interpretations and mystical interpretations are you inadvertently propping up the other half?

    Sorry for the rambling-I just don’t want to get an email from you saying you’ve become a baptist or joined the legion of mary 🙂

  2. girlwhocriedepiphany January 16, 2008 / 7:46 pm

    Alright, Ruaidhri, this merrily intentioned public ridicule has gone on long enough. You’ve really run with this belief that I am ready to become a laysister attending two masses a day as I renounce the rights of all those who do not believe Jesus Christ is their personal savior. I think you know well enough that this is most certainly not the case, but it is way too much fun to pass up the chance to throw some bile in the direction of all organized hypocrisy.

    I am sure the fact that I am willing to recognize some validity and beauty in Christianity is what is really getting to you. If I decided to write about nothing but Hindu philosophy, you wouldn’t know it like you know the oppressive Catholic bastion that is your country, so it wouldn’t be as easy to throw stones. Certainly, I know myself that it is easy to shop for other traditions because the books that describe them do not tell you about their negative manifestations in their native cultures.

    I am going to quote another blog reader, Gartenfische: “Christ is my path; I often have disagreements with Christianity.” Over and over I have said that I am still full of questions, joyfully pulling wisdom from different traditions. Just recently, I am discovering that Christ is one of those paths. Recognizing the beauty of his message and the legacy that he has left that has reached us through the mystics is not an automatic endorsement of everyone who used Jesus’s name to propagate their own agendas.

    You sling many arrows here, my friend, but I’ll just respond to one last thing: interesting that you value “culture, philosophy, and scientific knowledge” above all of the wisdom gained by communion with the Divine. How many hours could we spend thinking about the ills of the world that have sprung from these great secular sources?

    If every entity that was touched by scandal and human frailty was discarded as rotten to the core, we would still be sitting in caves somewhere I should think.

    In a pub or in a cave, I’d still share a bottle of wine with you though while we make sense of this crazy world. Thanks for being the most obstinate person I have ever had the opportunity to call a friend.

  3. RuaidhrĂ­ January 17, 2008 / 6:42 am

    Just call me the Devil’s advocate-someones got to keep you on your toes 🙂

    (This is the shortened version, believe it or not-I’ve sent you an email with a longer version which has more personal stuff and a postscript).

    But there was no ridicule-if you saw some I’m sorry but none was intended. Critical and sceptical yes, but thats because I apply the same level, if not more, of criticism and sceptism to my own beliefs.

    However I may have been strident and critical of christianity in my comments, because I have been recently immersed in an environment which confronts me the damages down in its name.

    I suppose my ramblings come down to two points.

    -Can you rescue christ out of christianity, untainted? I’m not so sure that this is possible. To get all biblical, I can’t seperate the wheat from the chaff in this instance as it all looks like chaff to me. Maybe a small handful of wheat grains, but not enough to make it worthwhile to spend all that time and energy seperating them up. Perhaps you and others can find more wheat, maybe enough to make some bread out of it-but not me right now.

    -Secondly, I feel concern that even trying to do so, somehow legitimises and enables the nastier aspects. This is one of the points where I have to say I agree with Richard Dawkins.

    As to other traditions-quite frankly you’re right and I’ve accepted that for years. Buddhism has slightly more aspects that are salvagable , I feel but theres a lot of dross that surrounds it and again even abuses committed in its name. However I accept only those tenets which survive criticism(at a level probably a thousand times more critical and sceptical then I was in my comments above re: christianity).

    Finally I value philosophy culture and scientific knowledge above wisdom from the divine because I see the benefits. It is because of the philosophical and cultural advances of the enlightenment that we can have this debate and not have to follow an orthodox belief because the King says everyone has to.

    But I suppose in the spirtual mystical sense you are talking about there is the sense that everything collapses and religious distinctions disappear. So I will leave you with a triad of quotes from the Buddha

    “However many holy words you read, however many you speak, what good will they do you if you do not act on upon them?”

    “In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then beleive them to be true.”

    “It is better to travel well than to arrive.”
    Buddha

    Yours Obstinately and in Love,

    RuaidhrĂ­

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