March 07, 2006

You Can Call It 'IO' if You Want

I was thinking today about religion. Just generally, about all the different ways, thoughts, and worldviews that people have on a subject that essentially boils down to a yes or no question. It’s not the one you’re thinking of, the one about God, but rather, do I or don’t I believe in any of this? There are so many different options now; it’s not like the Crusades… wait. “With the institution of freedom of religion in America, practically applied and enforced, any person may worship as he chooses, provided no harm is done to anyone, and he need not fear legal persecution.” I have to be very particular about what I say, lest people think me na├»ve. I’m not. I know this is the kind of thing wars are fought over. I just can’t respect that. I cannot fault someone for not having the same view about something that I do, particularly when it is something so personal to him, and I have no right to attempt to change his mind, nor does he mine. And certainly to take that to the point where either of us could be justifiably killed for our beliefs, or lack thereof, is inexpressibly unforgivable.

Belief is something dependent entirely on the self, existing inherently because it cannot be proved or disproved. We may freely disagree, but it all eventually boils down into the the “Yeah-huh!” / “Nun-uh” argument of most three year olds, because there is no one source that provides the absolute answer. I’ve had a few conversations that have deteriorated to this level, all ending with anger or hurt feelings, but always with each person more convinced that he is right and the other person is just crazy. I find it best just not to discuss religion on the whole; it makes for easier conversation—but Lord, thank you to all of those who can have a sense of humor about your chosen faith. Those people with amazing strength of character that know if you truly believe in something, a little teasing won’t shake it. Your good humor is the one thing that redeems the name of religion in the hearts of cynics, and makes family gatherings infinitely more bearable.

I bet it’s around now that you’re wondering, or at least making educated guesses, as to my particular brand of religion. I’ll start by saying this: I don’t have a brand. Nothing in my life has ever been brand-name, and I never really noticed the difference (except Oreos). I was a member of the Pagan Society at my university, but I didn’t practice. I respected those that did, some Wiccan and some Pagan, but I couldn’t really get into the rituals. It’s the same problem I had with the (forced) Catholicism of my youth; all religions have the binding quality of requiring some sort or degree of faith. And I have none. I liked many aspects of the pagan traditions, mostly the communing with nature and respecting all living things, but the second it came to lighting the candles I was making shopping lists in my head. I can’t do it. Not in all seriousness. I know it offends some people, but that’s who I am.

I do consider myself to be a ‘spiritual person’ (whatever that term may mean today), because I do think I have a religion—it just doesn’t have a name, other than ‘my own personal religion’; I’ve been asked, and truly been at a loss how to describe it. It’s like if somebody asked what color the carpeting in your brain would be. It’s your decision and yours only, because your husband, wife, and friends will never see it unless you tell them, you can’t just pick what’s in style, though, because it’s gotta work for everyday. This is as close as I could get:

Inverse Optimism - The belief system for those who take every day at a baseline, and despite being fully acquiainted with the evils of the world, are pleasantly disposed toward it.

Basic Doctrine:
The glass is not half full, nor is it half empty. The glass is the glass, it is what it is. You accept that the glass has the propensity to have any varied amount of anything in it, but assume that it will be empty. That way, whenever there’s anything in it, you will be pleasantly surprised. If you start at zero, you have nowhere to go but up.*

The closest approximation can be drawn from the teachings of Transcendentalism, particularly the life of Thoreau. Emerson may have started the craze, but Thoreau applied it practically; it is the difference between Nietzsche and Sartre: one is talking, one is doing.

None documented, any and all allowed.

Do not pollute.
Do not harm others.
Take care of your body.

If these things are not done, nothing bad will happen to you but the requisite legal action, litterbug-guilt, cavities and ill-health. You are your own keeper.

Spend a lot of time outdoors.
Never stop thinking or reading.

None. Better make the most of this one, Sunny Jim.

I don’t know why I started thinking on this tack today; it could all be an effect of reading too much of the History Channel.

*Cynicism doesn’t mean you have to be in a bad mood, you just have the absence of a good one.

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