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free to be you and me…

“We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.”  ― Carlos Castaneda

“That is what the torment of hell is in my opinion: remorse. But love inebriates the souls of the sons and daughters of heaven by its delectability.” -St Isaac of Assyria

I have considered the possibility that all religion is just smoke and mirrors. I have considered the thought, too, that the concept of God and that of the afterlife is really just a trick humans play on our own psyches to get us to behave in a certain manner. It’s entirely possible that this whole thing means nothing in the grand scheme of the cold, dark universe. Maybe faith is something we invented to make “finding purpose” in life an easier task. I hear arguments from time to time that the notion of God tends to cause more harm than good, that the practice of religion is ridiculous, that the standard bearers of Christianity in particular are, at best, deluded.

All of these things are possible. I guess that’s why is doesn’t bother me to admit it. I guess that’s why I don’t feel that I have to be right about my choice to believe in God, to pursue becoming Orthodox. I don’t feel the need to default to the “but you don’t know Him like I do” defense where God is concerned. Lord knows there’s enough of that skulking around the internet. I’m not entirely sure that God is in fact, “knowable” as some would define “knowing.” I’m of the opinion that to “know” God may be akin to thinking I can wrap my arms around the entire ocean. I wonder if it is the arrogance of thinking that we can actually wrap our arms around this ocean, that we can somehow carry the whole of that ocean in our pocket and pull it out as proof whenever we’d like that ultimately leads to the injury that “religion” causes in the world.

I cannot remember a time when I did not believe in God, not the institutional “fact” of God or Catholicism but the person of God. The best way I can describe this belief is to talk about “presence.” Skeptics might say that God was my imaginary friend from an early age, that I invented Him. People can feel free to believe what they’d like and if that’s so then I ought to be free to choose to attribute the presence I felt in those lonely insomnia-ridden nights of my childhood to the person of God.

Honestly, I have no interest in arguing about the existence of God. Some might call that wishy washy and outside of logic so just to be consistent I’m glad to admit this is true and leave it at that. I’m willing to engage this idea that my belief is nostalgic or ill placed. That’s someone else’s judgement of me and I’d argue that just as you’re free to articulate it I’m also free to reject it.

The reality that I could very well be wrong doesn’t bother me. I’m still willing to subscribe to it. I’m a mystic. I don’t know who I’d be outside of this framework. I’m content in this framework, peaceful, fulfilled. Why would someone feel the need to wrestle that away from me?

In the grand scheme of things when all is said and done and I depart this strange human experience what I want most is to avoid leaving behind me a trail of resentment and remorse.  I want to live without carrying regret along with me, dragging it like a steamer trunk along the long and rocky road of my life. If being Orthodox allows me to do this while I’m alive, if it is what leads me, ultimately and in all circumstances to choose love over fear then this is the journey I will choose again and again, no matter what lies ahead.

On the dusty road we all walk, barefoot and badly behaved, isn’t the desire to choose being loving over being judgmental really what we ought to be aiming for, after all? When this human experience ends for me and I find myself on the other side of it I want that to have been my legacy. And if on the other side of this life my Atheist friends are correct- that there is nothing but a great black universe, no God, no afterlife, no existence then a life lived with love as its memory will have been worthwhile. There will be no regret or remorse for having lived that way in my reckoning because there would be no witness to it in any case. I would not regret having been “wrong” about God if my life as an Orthodox Christian left only love in its wake.

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©2021 by Angela Doll Carlson