Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Thick and Thin

            Life is a complex and often complicated weave of destruction and growth, chaos and order. Life is, to say the least, difficult for the best of us. It seems it is always this or that or that and this. Granted, our time on this planet can be filled with great pleasure and illumination, but then without fail, along comes some matter which drives away the light and leaves us bound to darkness and even more trials and tribulations. Some days are enough to make one long for the inevitable and some much needed rest. Any sunshine we might find in the heavens is quickly lost to the clouds and an onslaught of heavy wind and rain. No matter who you are, or your lot in life, just living holds much burden. Life can be a wondrous adventure, filled with hope and joy and love. The glory of a new day can fill us with such determination that we believe no encumbrance will be able to get in our way. The human being tends to deny when life is easier. We become so enchanted by the ease with which our current state of existence seems to carry us that we lose sight and forget all about the coming storms. We would not last without these glimpses of sunshine. They, ironically, reenergize us, filling us with enough gumption to move forward and face another 24 hours. To float in the order of a good day; to feel the sweetness of being alive; for life to surround you and grant you but a moment’s mercy, these are the experiences that make life worth living. Without the sunshine, we could not recognize the storm as it forms or the approaching cloak of night.    
            It doesn’t matter how much money you have or how loved you are by your family. It doesn’t matter what your faith structure is, or what you do or do not believe. The weight of struggle falls on those who think they are just and on those that religion tells us are indeed unjust. Whether a firm Pentecostal, quite filled with the Spirit, or a high lama of Tibetan Buddhism, suffering and bedlam are in constant flux during everyone’s lifetime. Although it may not seem so, there is no safety when following the path. We are all bound to trauma and devastation throughout our lives. The constant drone of pain and heartache and sadness can seem unending and without a ray of hope.
            The most trying events of a lifetime might seem more manageable if each moment was not filled with the trivial design that summons discontent and defeat. One thing after another, no matter how small, can add up to greater discourse than the most horrific of experiences. The constant drumming of trial after trial, can make one question whether this life has any purpose at all besides thunder, lightning and the sting of rainfall. Ceaseless challenges always keep on coming, no matter how you learn or grow or become enlightened. You may have God Himself dangling from a keychain in your pocket, but in the end, shit happens. Shit happens to all of us.

“Why so blue?
Why do you start to break?
Under a misty moon
Under your skies of gray
In this life, you know
Storms are bound to come
Try not to worry about it
Sun's gonna shine again
Love won't leave you out in the rain”

            All those obstacles to our happiness, that life puts in the way, are mere confusion. Yes, our reality defines these experiences and the material world makes them important to deal with and resolve, but we cannot allow them to define us in the same capacity. We  permit the troubles of life to shape us, either for that which is productive or for that which is corrupted. We decide not so much the outcome, in the greater scheme of things, but rather the income that each event has on us individually. They can make us more substantial, sure to stand and fight. They can make us weaker, limited because of our fear and all the dissonance. We can abandon all hope or we can wait for the better day. We must decide not to give such negative things great power. After all, if they don’t kill us we are supposed to become stronger, wiser and more able to deal with the endless tyranny chance, luck and karma bring with them.
             Unfortunately, life gets harder as you go along. While some people appear to float through life on cloud 9, for others it is nowhere near that easy. It seems that there are those in this life who are destined to suffer more. It is not by their hand or through some warped sense of injustice that they meet their hard times. It seems to come with them. This is not to exclude any floater from the trouble that life brings. Every person has their own burden which they must bear. No one is exempt. Life is hard for everyone. One can’t help but notice for some it seems even harder.
            The best one can do is to make it through the bad times. There is always sun on the far side of the storm. Quite often, the storm itself reveals great mercy.  Deep behind the dank and billowing mass of wet and wind, there is always a brighter day. Given time, the raging front will pass and the world will have light again. You would not recognize that light if it was not for the darkness. Things may not be all better, the world may have changed, but the pain and the fear and the overwhelming mass of chaos will fade away like it never was. It is up to us to make it a lesson learned or a price we pay. You pick how you respond, how you deal with your new reality. The choice is yours. You can stand under the umbrella, afraid to get wet, or you can watch for clear skies and the warmth of all that shine.  

“So walk that road
Remembering you're not alone
You got someone to lean on
Something to call your own
Just have a little faith and then
When all the clouds roll in
You won't have to worry about it
Love's gonna shelter you
Love won't leave you out in the rain”

            A professor once instructed me that God was all in my head. Like any true atheist, he seemed intent on making me validate his point. I argued mine in turn. Years later and I am not convinced that he was wrong. After all, the direction we take when faced with adversity is determined by our reaction to that adversity. We can abandon ship or sail through it. It is the same process when dealing with the reality of God. When people commit to following a set faith structure, and worshipping a specific deity, they are indeed choosing to do so. Since the days of gods appearing to man as a catalyst for belief seem lost to the times of Moses and the Apostles, it only seems logical to conclude that we must construct our faith for ourselves. This procedure, generally, occurs all in our heads. We act on blind faith when we surrender to something greater and unknown.
            The mind is the most sacred temple. You can literally pick the god you follow. As we travel forward, we adapt this entity based on the experiences and circumstances in our lives. As we evolve, so too does the Master we serve. This outcome depends entirely on the traits we assign to our God. For many, He does not mature, He becomes quite despicable. So then a Christian becomes the Agnostic when his faith no longer serves his purpose. People do it all the time. I used to believe that the Abrahamic God, literally, punished me for any inappropriate or sinful action I took. His contempt was clear and visible. As I studied and applied my faith towards understanding, I recognized I could no longer follow an unjust god. It was the realization that I had other options which eventually set me free from a religion which did its best to cripple me.     
            Like so many that crash against our modern times, I did not sink my own ship. As I strove for wisdom and truth, the less palpable ideas I had maintained fell away like water in the wind. I came to see God, my God, as unique and less defined. The attitude I took determined the faith that I practice. My theology became knowledge based rather than one forced by submitting. I began to think for myself, to form my own ideas on what and who God was. I stopped allowing organized concepts to dictate what I was required to believe. Strangely enough, the God I now can relate with is strikingly similar to the God of my childhood. I have no preconceived notions regarding the state or nature of the Divine. Like a child, I do not view God with any judgment. It appears the peace that passes all understanding was with me all along, but I refused to see It. I had always let the storms block the sun. I was drowning in all the rain.

“And when life seems to lose all rhythm
Love will show you how to dance
Given half a chance
And given time, in love you'll find
A peaceful place, a friendly place
A harbour on the sea of lonely”

            Through thick and thin, God was always with me. For most of my life, this just never occurred to me. I suppose I had been brainwashed into thinking I wasn’t good enough. My sin brought nothing but spiritual isolation. I had been convinced that my days would be all clouds and thunder, not because I deserved it but because I was told I deserved it.  Slowly, with precision, I drew back the curtain and let the sunshine in. It is not that all my troubles disappeared. There are still many storms and much grey, and so many downpours, but they no longer define me and they do not dictate what I have come to believe. Convincing myself that God was better than human allowed for peaks of brightness until, eventually, I found a new view of the world and that which men claim as Holy. I realized He was here, regardless.
            Even though, for most of my adult life, the idea of an omnipresent deity hanging on my every word and action seemed trivial and pure nonsense, I discovered that, for me, things worked in a different way. God is with me because I make it so. I open myself to ideas and doctrines, to new horizons which do not rebirth a storm. Bidding God welcome turned out to be redundant. God was already all around and within me. How I feel and think now has shown me how to dance in both the sunshine and the rain. It didn’t matter what religion claimed, or commanded, especially the Christian faith in which I was brought up. The proof is all in the pudding. I know it is real because I can see it is real. I think it, I feel it, my world has shifted. Discovering that God was inspiration and much imagination allowed me to no longer have the compulsion that I must survive Him. Instead, I ended up back where I started and began the process of embracing Him.
             I don’t have a clue if I am right or wrong in my notions. All I know is that my life is different. Hardship and struggle may still flood my path, but they are no longer hurdles that stop me, during or after they materialize. I decide where I will go, despite the roadblocks and detours. The sky is always shiny, you just need to get past the clouds. In hindsight, I can see; my life is testament. Never once, no matter the trial or the tribulation, was I left out in the rain.

“Mark my words
Love's gonna cover you
And when you're stuck in the dead of night
Love's gonna pull you through
And I'll be the one you know
Sayin', 'I told you so'
Life will be easier livin'
Once you begin to learn
Love won't leave you out in the rain”
(Love Won't Leave You Out in the Rain, Michael English 1991)

             I had to adjust. To learn that God was always with me meant I did not need to be afraid of this or that. Through thick and through thin I have made it, completely convinced that all things shall pass and that it’s going to be okay, whatever comes. There is no need of a place to hide from the storm. The right mindset and a little faith allow for one to face any onslaught. This is strong and sure within me. I am sure enough to never want to be without it, even if it’s all in my head.