Last Tuesday night I went to an event called “Bughouse Spin,” at a place actually called the “Bughouse” in Bushwick. It’s basically people telling stories, “Spinning,” as denoted in the name of the event, and the theme for the night was GOD. The “G” word, the word that is the source of so much controversy, fear, and contention in so many of us.
I was looking forward to an interesting evening.
I thought I would hear the stories, listen, and applaud politely (or impolitely, depending on the story) say a couple of congratulatory words to the readers, and go home satisfied (or unsatisfied) and that would be that. But that was not to be, and it turned out to be a good thing.
There was to be a discussion after, and the curator and hostess, Martha Williams, did a great job of that. She made sure every single person in the room put in their two cents, whether they wanted to or not.
It wasn’t hard, most of the 25 or so people in attendance (myself included) were pretty opinionated and loquacious, and so the discussion was lively and satisfying.
A halo on an unidentified man could be god.
The four spinners gave their take on who or what they thought god was, or wasn’t. Two of them were outright bashers, atheists who hate all things god and religion. The other two tried to understand what god is, and gave an honest try at it, or at least in explaining their own feelings about conflicted emotions.
For me the discussion after was the best part, the thought really flowed into the room when questions were asked and opinions given. One of the spinners had actually read the bible, (New Testament) and he asked if anyone else in the room had. To my surprise five others had. I was not one of them.
To me that brought home the exact problem I encounter when having discussions with opinionated people who only look at things from one side. I am not qualified to speak for or against the bible because I have not read it.
One of the participants, a red haired woman who was also the only Jew in the room, said the one thing she’d learned by reading the bible was that it was a beautiful book that taught us about “community.”
As social animals we are always looking to make our community work better, and this makes sense. I don’t want to get into a whole discussion about religion, its history or purpose here, this is after all just a blogpost and there’s plenty to read on the subject out there; but I will say this: religion is here to stay and whether I believe in it or not, it will always be part of my life in one way or another.
During the discussion, I realized that a lot of the participants, most of who were younger and hipper than I were confusing religion and spirituality. I used to confuse it myself.
I had never thought of myself as a spiritual person, in fact I did everything I could not to think about my place in the world (and the world in general) by using copious amounts of drugs to dull the responsibility of doing so. An older woman in my writing class asked me last week, “why don’t you describe the way you felt on drugs?” This is a woman that probably never took anything stronger than an aspirin in her life and was curious.
“I felt nothing,” I said. “I took the drugs so I did not have to feel. I was not searching for enlightenment.”
Perhaps I am lucky that I self-medicated, who knows what I may have done left to sort through my racing, jumbled thoughts that filled me with so much fear that I could not bear to leave the house without taking some kind of drug; there was discussion of suicide, of wanting to hurt others, of hiding in cults, all things I may have done left to my own devices.
I used to open the door to Jehovah’s witnesses so I could have a “discussion” with them and bash religion and Jesus Christ and small-minded people who were blind believers. In the army I almost came to blows with a fundamentalist Christian when I insisted that “god didn’t write the bible, men did,” much to his dismay. “Are you putting down the good book?” He asked.
“What makes you think it’s a good book?” I taunted. He had to be held back from punching me in the face, and I smugly thought I’d struck a blow for reason and humanism. But all I’d really done was prove that I was just as closed minded as he was, unwilling to believe that there is more to this world than what is in my own head.
The teachings of Jesus Christ are simple: be kind, love others, be tolerant, and don’t judge. Unfortunately in our modern world there is so much intolerance, judgment, and unkindness done in his name.
There is also a lot of good done: charity work, education, and enlightenment. And not just in the name of Christianity, all of the major Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity carry the double edged sword of love and tolerance on one side and hate and intolerance on the other side, depending on the level of literalism they ascribe to.
For me, I choose to believe in a higher power, in that what is in my head cannot be the last word, since once I’m gone it will all go on as if I were never here in the first place. But as long as I am here, I may as well be happy, and I can only be happy if I look at the kind and tolerant side of the sword, and try and not think too hard about the other side, which I can’t change or do much about. People are going to believe what they want, and it is not my job to change that or enlighten them. That is up to them. What I do is up to me.
My last post was about beauty, and to me that is what god is, it’s beauty, and there is beauty everywhere I look, and the pictures I posted above are an example of what I think is beautiful, and godlike.