I spent a week at a Trappist monastery in Kentucky not too long ago. Its walls are not to keep people out, or the monks in, merely to block out noise that the rest of us call life. My retreat into that world was a silent one, filled only with the sound of chanted psalms and footsteps. I spent the week reading, thinking, and lost in every second I could grasp. As usual with my personal quests for meaning, I left with few answers, and more questions.
I’ve been plagued for a long time with a feeling of dissatisfaction: nothing feels like it fits, and all of the answers I’m given seem to be incomplete. Am I just like all of you? Is this the plight of the everyday human? Or are all you satisfied with your lives, and with your answers?
So many things have pulled me this way and that: authors like A.S. Neill, Anthony de Mello, and Daniel Quinn, countless movies, my friends, the Catholic Church, my parents, professors, and my new fiancée.
I am bombarded with people trying to sell me happiness and contentment: sex, my body, the West, the East, sex, Democrats, Republicans, Iraq, terrorism, Bush, Barack, Hiliary, sex, Darfur, Palestine, my body, her body, sex.
This I believe: I can no longer trust beliefs. I am not talking about good, healthy values, and am not throwing my religion out the window. I am talking about labels and opinions: things held to be so true and yet are based on conditioning and rubbish. I love being Catholic. Much of who I am I owe to the Church. But I don’t think you need to be Catholic. I don’t think you need to be anything besides what you are. Beliefs aren’t Truth, with a capital “T.” Beliefs are internal conceptualizations that often obscure more Truth than they reveal.
So instead of believing, I am going to try something new: not. I’ll drop the beliefs, drop the labels, drop the opinions and judgments. It’s too bad we are born tabula rasa, instead of dying that way. If I pass you on the street and smile, it is not because I think you are cute, or successful, nicely dressed, interested, Christian, black, white, green, rich, poor, heterosexual, or any other side of any belief you can think of. The truth of it, is that I see you, and for that instant, our paths in this big empty universe are crossing, and that warrants at the very least a smile.
And if enough people are smiling, maybe we’ll realize that we are all in this together, tucked away in our humble corner of the Milky Way. It is said that seeing is believing. I disagree: really seeing, is the opposite of believing. I am. You are. We are, together. That is where it should end. There are no adjectives, races, nationalities, or creeds that need be added in order to love, understand, and accept. I hope to smile with you soon.
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