Monday, March 13, 2017

The Itty-Bitty Questioner


  When I was “told,” by the Voice to “get a massage” I played with the idea that the owner of the directive, that same voice I remembered from when I nearly drowned at fourteen, was God. But in actuality, I had no idea if there was a Chief of Everything. At times, especially during childhood, it seemed like no one was in charge of anything. The odd decree at forty-two to be slathered in oil, jump-started my questioning and Bonni and then Bella’s death sends me into my own version of Truth or Consequences. It begins with an investigation into capitalization.
     Do I believe in god?
     It is mere moments before my thought-question is bombarded with every “Believe or ye shall repent!” I remember from bombastic ministers in black and white films.
     Does wondering whether God exists, make me god-less? 
     It has been my hypothesis that a “god” wouldn’t create humans with the ability to reason about everything except whether he exists or not. Today I’m not feeling very rational.
     Will I be blackballed if the H isn’t capitalized when “him” is typed in reference to HIM? 
     As my thoughts whirl in agitation driven by old fears of being struck by lightning for blasphemy—for this I thank priests telling me stories of hellfire and damnation, my logical-self sputters up more questions.
     Is this experience nothing more than a mathematical equation? A blend of cells that accidentally showed up in the same Petri dish swamp?
     I’ve experienced my life as filled with co-winky-dinks, (coincidences in Webster’s Dictionary), random, yet not random events that have tested my logic-meter. Times like when an old friend called that I dreamed about the night before, an eagle feather fell from the sky and landed at my feet, and the song Calling All Angels played on the radio just as I reached the end of my ability to cope. The Voice is another good example of this.
      When the Voice tosses an idea, they are piercingly relative to my quest to heal. The Voice doesn’t give a hoot if I win the Lotto or remember to pick up eggs at the grocery store. The Voice only focuses on my having a healthy existence, which is a good thing if the objective is a life of possibility in place of pain. But that single “mindedness” doesn’t always feel like a free will gift. Each time I have ignored an important Voice message, it has become more insistent, knocking on the front door of my mind growing loud, louder, loudest. Voice missives seem not to take no for an answer, which comes across to me as a sentient being messing with my resistance to being told what to do. Sentient beings care whether or not someone cleans their room after being asked. The Voice appears to mind if a request (read demand), is acted upon, even if I’m not positive he exists. This lobs an omnificent and ever-present why me question.
     If the Voice is the god, why would it be talking to me? Who am I anyway? Just some doodad human with a history of pain. There’s plenty of those people to go around. Are we all noticing a voice and not saying anything because we’d look crazy or not noticing and I’m picking up the weirdo frequency? Should I be checking myself into 101 for loonies?
     Not that again.
     Oh look you showed up when I was thinking about you. Hmmm. That’s either a point for loony or a point for God. Well. I prefer not to be loony. Notice the G capitalized. This must be my form of a capitulation albeit not necessarily convincing.
     Not knowing whether it’s important or not, I decide to stave off lightning bolts as a precaution.
     God, the Supreme Being, The Master of All That Is, The Creator exists!
     Surely He/She/It is somewhere breathing a sigh of relief that one itty-bitty questioner in the Midwest has something she construes as proof or perhaps just enough ancient have to's imprinting her with a fear of being damned. Feeling somewhat (I’m a questioner, somewhat is an accomplishment), resolved on the God issue, I consider heaven, hell, and ghosts.
     Throughout childhood, I was dreamily told that heaven is full of angels, harps, and clouds while hell, usually discussed in terrified whispers, is a dreadful place of fire, brimstone, and a hideous deviant called the Devil (for some reason his name is also capitalized). Good children would be sent to heaven, that’s how angels got their wings. If one is good (a definition that mercurially changed depending upon which adult was in the room), one’s last breath carries them to the magic kingdom, where a benevolent old white man on a throne allows children to play and laugh for all eternity. In the same seemingly endless rambling paragraph, I was also taught that if I didn’t get a handle on what good meant and was wicked, a description that included back-talking mother, stealing plastic fangs from the dime store, and calling my sibling stupid, I would be sent straight to hell if I inopportunely died before being cleansed with Hail Mary’s (also capitalized for obvious reasons). Based on that premise, most of the kids I grew up with would if not already, then one day surely are going to hell, a place where bad children work day and night on the Devil’s chore list and are whipped, beaten and denied food and water.
     If the hell thing is true, it’s in a sick way comforting to know that I will discover familiar faces when the elevator door opens in the basement if I haven’t purged the dinge of my lengthy list of faults. As it is unlikely if I were to accidentally take Willy Wonka’s magic elevator to the sky that I will recognize any of the perfect kids, the ones who made it home before the street lights came on and did their chores without being asked.
     By age five I clearly understood that being good isn’t easy and the heaven carrot and the hell stick are strong methods for keeping people in line.
     What about doing things for others without the promise of heaven? That sounds like unconditional love, but what do I know?  I’m just one of those who mucks with the rule book, the one given to me in a childhood littered with pain and harm by people who insisted that I behave.  But not behaving is why I’m still here. Saying “no” without pause is how I made it out of my childhood without turning into a sick freak. And since I’m the boss of me I get to decide what I believe.
     Heaven, hell, and an eraser for bad deeds sounds like a figment of an indulgent imagination. They worked to scare the crap out of me for decades, making them damn good stories, but after a dousing it in the deep end of my awareness pool, no way. This leaves one big dude in an empty basement.
     Do I believe in the Devil?
     If big Mr. Red doesn’t have a place to live, he’s on thin ice. The Voice has come forth as slim evidence that someone or something encapsulates God or my perception of God, but not one single item on the devil (no more capitalized theatrics), list feels true. Especially those things I was told by clergy and people who wanted me to follow the rules.
     “The devil reached in and took her soul.”
     Seriously?
     “The devil will take people and make them “bad”.
     And pigs can fly.
      “The devil made me do it!”
      Sounds like an attempt to disavow responsibility for an action taken.
     “Demon alcohol took over and did the deed.”
     Ditto.
     Creating a jail to house degenerates at the end of a long life of ugly behavior and a princess castle for do-gooding sounds like the milk and cookies before bedtime. The tales that are told to keep life encapsulated in a nice neat little box. Break the rules then go to hell, follow the rules go to heaven. And if someone gets caught or their conscience talks back after doing something bad, talking to a robed gentleman behind a mesh screen is a Get Out of Jail Free Card. With or without the pass, no one is sending me anywhere. I’m responsible for me and my actions.
     Okay Miss Know-It-All-For-Herself, what about the poop smell? What about ghosts and the hereafter?
      My son helps me consider our body-to-spirit transition.
     “You know Mom, it doesn’t make sense for people to live once and die. How many new souls can there be anyway? Trees and flowers don’t live once and die. Every winter they sorta die and are reborn in the spring. I think we’re like plants. What would you call being born again after dying?”
     My young philosopher looks expectant, waiting for facts to be spoken.
     Moms tell you what to believe.
     There had to be a way to convey my thoughts with words, as well as suggest he not take my ramblings as gospel, but continue learning with an open mind.
     “Well bud, what you’re talking about is called reincarnation. Some people think that when you die, you’re recycled and get born again to do it all over.”
     He gazes over my shoulder.
     “Mom, do you believe in heaven or reincarnation?”
     A comforting wave of calm envelopes me.
     “Your description sounds pretty good to me, but I’m still trying to figure it out.”
     He leans in against me to continue some-posing.
     “Yeah me too, but if I believe in reincarnation, it doesn’t make sense for people to spend a bunch of money on the funeral and casket. Dead people aren’t even in their body anymore. Why does everyone do that?”
     “I guess so friends and family can honor the person who died and it makes them feel better.”
     He sits up looking irritated and impatient.
     “Well, that’s just stupid. I bet the person would rather everyone thought about them once in a while or planted a tree or something instead of spending money on a grave.”
     A week later we have an even more esoteric conversation over a television show on prodigal kids. Our words ripple excitedly over one another.
     “What if they played the piano in their past life and remembered?”
     “Or used to be Albert Einstein?”
     “What about people who are gay?”
       “Maybe they were once the opposite sex and that lifetime made an imprint, but were born into a different body?” 
      My son finishes our other-worldly discussion with a statement.
      “Dying just isn’t the end Mom.”
     Whatever is on the other side of this life has an endless possibility and before I get to know what that means, this side is liberally sprinkled with coincidences, guidance from an insistent voice, and maybe a ghost dog.

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