What do I believe?
I pounded my head until my ears were ringing.
I assumed the position of The Thinker.
I came up with nothing.
Don’t get me wrong. I am sure there are things I believe. I am not talking about things I “know,” but things I “believe” – whether or not there is logic behind them. It’s just that every time I thought of one, I found myself trying to be rational about it. Margaret Thatcher’s disapproval of “U-turns” notwithstanding, in the end I would change every last one of them if there was enough good reason.
I also tried to squeeze things I think are important into beliefs. It is important:
* to treat each other well,
* not to let fear dominate life,
for goodness sake I think it is important to recycle, but that is not a belief.
I listed things that make life wonderful. Music, laughter, and ice-cream rated well. A nice collection, but they don’t rise to the level of a holy triumvirate. Animists, Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists, Jainists, Catholics, Muslims, and Protestants are unlikely to yield the company of spirits, the promise of future lives, eternal harmony, streets paved in gold, or the libidinous attentions of virgins, for a trip to the ice-cream parlor. Well, I might convert a Unitarian Universalist or two, but only after they researched the treatment of the animals that produced the cream, and the environmental impact of the dairy.
I considered things that make life miserable. Just as Buddha identified “Four Sufferings,” I found plenty of grief. Human cruelty seemed the worst, but even just nature’s promise of death points out the tragically ephemeral nature of brilliant lives. No belief that I could think of changed the reality of this pain. For example, even if I could believe that death just means transport to some fabulous, alternate universe called Heaven, my heart still aches for those who have moved there. They are unavailable to my AT&T connection, and I miss them terribly.
My conclusion is that I apparently live a soul-less, shallow life. I don’t have any beliefs strong enough to be unchangeable, or to alleviate life’s pain. But maybe I don’t need any. Perhaps my little list of things that are wonderful are as close to Heaven as I can be. I do not have to invent a preferred reality to believe in. I should just face life’s trials as bravely as I can, generously sharing, especially ice-cream, being careful to recycle the carton. If I laugh and listen to music, I believe that is enough for me.
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