In my last post I mentioned a bible verse, Matthew 10:36, not so much because I wanted to be religious, but more so because it had a particular significance – personal responsibility.  This time I will be getting “a bit religious” given its relevance to a recent conversation.

A month or so ago my neighbor was passing by when I was outside and as he often does, stopped in to chat.  I learned that he lost his job with the accounting firm he had been with, he is a CPA, and  he has been trying to start own company and while it was making progress, he  was struggling.  We began to talk about a variety of things, about another job he was sort of offered – the local people wanted him but the corporate leaders rejected him.  He was angry and conveyed same.  He asked me how I was doing, what I was up to and so forth.

In answering his question I mentioned I was likely going to sell my house and move to the Baltimore area for a couple of reasons.  First, it would be closer to where my son intends to go to college and it is also where I have some close relatives.  Second, it would be close to Johns Hopkins and since it appeared the novel treatment options available to me in this area were exhausted.  I furthered that I felt somewhat compelled to turn my treatment over to the doctor I first saw at Hopkins, who has, over the years, kept in touch and also extended his vision of possibilities for my treatment. With this, the conversation became “interesting”.

His first comment was he was challenged how God could let something like this happen to me.  He further explained how he talks to God and how he argues with that which God oversees.  He explained how he was terribly upset that a close friend’s wife, at a relatively young age, was diagnosed with breast cancer.  He said how he watched them contend with the challenge.  He tried to reconcile the occurrence, thought about how many say God only gives us what we can handle, that it all comes for a reason.  He found no solace in any of those thoughts or rationales, he only held anger for that laid down upon those in his world.  It was an interesting perspective, interesting be cause in all his confusion he said his faith remained steadfast.  When he asked how I reconciled my condition and my beliefs and whether I was mad about my situation.  I told him my view was quite simple, that if I die tomorrow, I am at peace.  I conveyed that from my perspective, I’m OK with whatever happens to me.  I added that I also saw this as an opportunity, an opportunity to leverage my knowledge and experience to leave a footprint, to challenge the science of my disease now, so that in the future others may benefit.  He then asked me of my beliefs, of religion and of my views on God, of Christianity.

My response was not as he expected for what I said is that I believe in a supreme being, that something bigger than us exists.  I also conceded I do not fully ascribe to the whole of the Christian paradigm, of Jesus and his story, mostly, but in total.  My neighbor was a bit confused with the latter since I do have a nativity scene within the plethora of Christmas decorations I put outside my house each year.  My elaboration explained that in my paradigm I find considerable commonality among religions, that the basic premise of each being similar to the other.  I cited the parallels as I see them, mainly one central figure, and further stated that it is not my place, the whole of it all is bigger than me, to judge the merits of one versus the other.  I added that to me, each religion and its precepts evolved to serve or appeal to the varying characters of people, of those things that comprises their paradigms or societies, taking a form to which a particular group can  grasp and believe.  For me, I see all as possible and accept their forms, be that the Big Elm Tree of the Iroquois, Buddha, the Christian God or that of Judaism.  My neighbor found it all very intriguing, he asked how I managed to come to that end, what he heard was again, not what he expected.

Some background to give this context.  Generally speaking, I tend to be more of a left brained person, inclined to the logical and reasoned.  As such, in my younger days my propensity was toward math and science, albeit considerable aspects of my thinking leaned toward the abstract.  In any case, I became indoctrinated in the scientific method through which my inclination was that of an agnostic.  I held this since there was no “proof” of either a God, of whatever form, or for the premise of the existence of the universe as a whole.  In some ways you could say I was hedging, but the reality was my evaluation then led me to the conclusion flaws existed within both the paradigms, of creationism and evolution.  In short, I concluded there was no definitive proof of either theory.  In considering my agnosticism, I also concluded this was something of an analogy to the motor and engine definitions – motors are engines, but engines are not necessarily motors.  So, at this point I paralleled agnostics as the motor and atheists as the engines.  Basically, I concluded that since by definition an atheist does not believe in God and an agnostic, while not fully dismissing God, did not affirm one, is a form of atheist.  I held this view for several years when I considered certain questions.

Those questions are very basic and fundamental while at the same time quite encompassing.  First, I looked at science and the question of from where the universe came.  Pretty simple on the surface, but not so when we refer to the principal that “matter is neither created nor destroyed”.  Accepting this, or not for that matter, if we follow things to the natural end point, we can conclude that “something came from nothing”.  Yes, scientists will say our universe was given rise to by a huge explosion, referring to the big bang theory, but they fail to identify where the “matter”, if that is what it was, that exploded, came from in the first place.  I then applied the same test to the whole of religion and existence of God.

In my view, religions and beliefs of all forms largely attribute the formation of that which we see and the world, the universe, in which we live, as being created by God or to whatever central figure their particular belief system ascribes.  They each have their story of how things came about, of how things are to work, of the “rules of the game”.  However, in the end, they all give rise to a simple question, the same question scientists are unable to answer – from where did God come?  Quite the paradox here and both valid questions that, at least in my exposures, have never been satisfactorily answered.

So now back to my neighbor and his original question of how I came to be where I am.  For me, when looking at all the “evidence”, of all the views, contentions and perceptions, it boiled down to one simple thing – what worked in my paradigm, what could I get my head around and adhere.  Reviewing the options I thought about my ability to envision what one billion dollar bills would look like if put in one pile – I couldn’t.  I thought about the science and the reality that one must have some degree of faith that sometime, somewhere, by some logical means, someone would answer the question of how all this in which we exist came to be.  In doing this I thought of the word faith and thought of the idea of God.  The religious use that word to explain the existence of God and all they believe God orchestrates.  In considering this all I came to one inevitable conclusion, accepting either paradigm required faith.  I concluded that with this reality, science was undermined to at least some degree.  I also decided that, like the money analogy, my peanut brain was unable to get beyond the whole notion of faith.  In the end, I reasoned that God, as an explanation of our existence was the most rational belief for me.

He came back to the whole idea of my being at peace, of my seemingly accepting my condition and that which he viewed as something God “gave” me.  I found this perspective to be something quite common in coming from the “faithful”, they, or at least many, believe all is part of God’s plan.  I told him my view was a bit different; that while I do ascribe to the whole of things ultimately tracing back to God, I did not see God as one who micromanages.  He seemed a bit perplexed with this because his paradigm always gave way to the idea that if one prays to God, ones prayers are “answered”.  I told him that while that is a perfectly acceptable view, mine was more macro.  In short, while I see our world as something was ultimately God’s plan (or a supreme being), I see it largely ending there.  The world, as it exists, in my paradigm, is one where we were presented with a set of circumstances, some of which our creator may tweak from time to time, but generally which create a fixed environment in which we operate.  I expounded, saying that I didn’t see my condition as something God specifically did or caused to happen to me, but rather the result of the convergence of circumstances, whatever they might be.  I therefore concluded there was no reason to be mad at anyone, particularly God.  He saw this as interesting and furthered the conversation by asking me of my view of heaven and hell, good and evil and so forth and again I perplexed him.

I conveyed that in my view I do not see there being anything like heaven and hell and dismissed the whole paradigm of the necessity of being faithful in order to achieve peace with our maker.  From my perspective, I see all things being here for some reason and all with some function.  Perhaps my rationalization of all that is good and bad in the world, but I think perhaps more an acceptance of the notion that if God is forgiving and puts all here for some reason, then why punish anyone.  I point to the diametrically opposed personalities of the mass murderer, say Hitler, and the “mass “do gooder”, say Mother Teresa.  If in the big scheme of things the plan allows for the existence or occurrence of both, then surely neither can be “punished” as many believe.  I would argue that just as Mother Teresa was a model for demonstrating all the good that can be done in the world, Hitler can be a model for all the bad.  The analogy here is that of preparing for a hurricane.  If we are totally unaware of hurricanes, we have no idea of their capability for destruction and so it might follow we would be unable to prepare.  Without the demonstration of evil by someone like Hitler or the good of Mother Teresa, how are we to know the extremes, how are we to prepare for, and prevent the Hitlers of the world from acting and concurrently, how will we know how people’s lives can be made better in the light of overwhelming despair?  I see each as having a place and a lesson from which we can learn.  The lesson, as I see it is to be the best we can be, with that which we are given and in doing so we will have lived a good life.

For me, and my cancer, I find peace in knowing that I am afflicted with something that will likely kill me.  But at the same time, I am equipped to assist in pushing the envelope, to move the science forward and thereby, in some small way, make a difference for others.  It is herein that I find my peace, perhaps purpose, in all that I do and how I live.  For my neighbor, he still grappled with the idea of how I could find this peace, but he did follow the logic.  He still remained somewhat confused, but agreed there may be merit to what I said.  He also had never heard of the perspective I conveyed  and found it worthy of consideration.  In revisiting the conversation perhaps there is a lesson here for me as well.  Perhaps he identified another purpose for my odyssey, perhaps it is to offer others a view to an alternative path to inner peace.  Maybe after we spoke, my neighbor will stop arguing with God although I doubt it.

As always, feel free to comment or you may email me at lifeabstractions@gmail.com

Ciao

LifesAbstractions

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