Tag Archives: Death

Death Becomes You

The signs of the changing season are many and plentiful: there is a new crispness in the air, the days grow shorter, the leaves begin to fall, pumpkin spice flavoring has been injected into every consumable, and the yearly barrage of educational outreach posts from the Pagan community are making the rounds.

I used to do a fair bit of that myself.  The confluence of Pop-Culture Halloween and Pagan Samhain makes for a pretty tempting public relations opportunity.  Watch as we slide a little truth in there between your fun-sized Snickers and your yearly viewing of The Great Pumpkin.

I gave it up though, because mostly people don’t want to be bothered with it.

And of those who do show some interest, trying to explain Celtic Ancestor Night traditions to someone who’s cultural understanding of death is rooted in Western Christianity is a serious undertaking.

There’s just no easy way in.

Except that is for Dia de Muertos.

The growing popularity in the States, of the Mexican ‘Day of the Dead’ has, on several recent occasions, given me something a little more tangible to point to.

But still, the conversations tend to go something like this…,

Me: “It’s like ‘The Day of the Dead’ but without the Sugar Skulls.”

Them: “Huh?!”

So, it seemed like the best thing to do was to just give up again, when suddenly this…,

The Book of Life

The Book of Life.

It came out in 2014, and I’ve just now watched it.

How did I miss this movie?!

It is without doubt, the best representation of a modern cultural rite of honoring the dead, that I have seen on film.  The movie is cute and funny, even while treating the subject with a particular reverence, and most importantly, it is rich and beautiful to look at.

In a time when the rotting flesh and gnashing teeth of the zombie has become a year round staple of popular culture, it is nothing short of miraculous to see the dead depicted as beings of both whimsy and grace, who care for their living descendants as fervently as we should care for them.

Do not be fooled by the corruption of the grave.

That is not death.

Death is not something that happens to us, it is something we become, and in so doing, we carry away all that is beautiful within us into that next realm.  How could what we find there be anything other than glorious to behold?

Watch the movie.  Smile and laugh at the story, even as you catch a momentary glimpse of a truth beyond our mortal reach.  Do that, and maybe you’ll understand the things we do.

We dress the graves to honor them.

We kindle the fires to light their way home.

We share with them offerings of food and drink.

We remember them to each other in the stories that we tell.

And we pray that we will be remembered when we have passed beyond the vail.

Do not fear the grave.  Death becomes you.

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Filed under Culture, Death, Holidays, Religion, Traditions

An Audience of None

book of the dead

Who will judge us, and by what measure?

We closed our eyes upon the living world and awoke to find ourselves standing in the presence of a powerful being, being both jackal and man.  We do not fear him, but rather the great set of scales besides which he stands.

In one hand he carries a single feather, plucked from the wings of the goddess of truth.

He places that feather upon the scales, and then reaches out toward us, into us, and though we are not harmed, we see that he carries our heart in his easy grip.

This two he places upon the scales.

A heart weighed down with a lifetime of regrets, and a feather infused with the weight of justice.

The scales tip, one way or the other, and we are judged.

 


 

The taste of the coin lingers as the small boat finally comes to ground.

We step eagerly over the shallow rail and onto solid earth, with only a brief glance backward to see that the cloaked ferrymen is rowing away again, into the gloom from whence we came.

There are three paths before us, and three kings, sons of the sky father, the keeper of oaths.

In life, their judgements were fair and true.

In death they will not fail us.

Our story is all told, we need only an ending befitting our tale.

Was our life one of goodness, or evil, or were our deeds unremarkable, our life wasted?

The story goes on, and we are judged.

 


 

Our ticket to eternal reward has been purchased in blood.

And now, after a long sleep, we shall rise and collect our due.

All around us they gather, the people we knew and loved and feared and hated.

But we have no eyes for them, nor they for us.

Our attention is arrested by the light which drew us from the grave, a light that touches every part of us, that burns away the shadows so that we are revealed completely to him.

Did we store our treasures in the old world, or in the new?

Eternity yawns before us, and we are judged.

 

Always we have been judged.

We crave it and we fear it like no other thing.

For as long as we have walked upon this earth, we have given ourselves to the gods for judgement.  The names change as we move from tribe to tribe, as do the specific details, but in the end we imagine ourselves laid bare in the eyes of those who will rule, finally, upon the content of our lives.

I have wondered, sometimes, if the gods and the ancestors volunteered for this duty, or if we somehow pressed them into service?

Just lately, I have wondered if their long obligation might be coming to an end.

We have found a new God of Judgement, it seems, better than those we have previously known, more responsive and immediate in both its praise and especially in its condemnation.  This new god does not wait until we are dead to pronounce judgement upon us.  It watches us with a billion eyes and when we are found wanting, the punishments of this new god are immediate and scathing.  No more waiting around for the privacy of the grave, no more scriptures or doctrines to follow and uphold.

Have you guessed it?

We did this.

We reached out and opened the eyes and ears of the world.  We gathered them all together in one place, where they could speak in one voice.  And before the echoes of our celebration had died away, this shambling titan began to reach out in complete and utter condemnation of everything within reach of its great and dissonant voice.

For once, we’ve given the atheists what they wanted.  We’ve swept aside the old gods and shown that we can do things far more efficiently by ourselves.  And what a job we’ve done!

But I think I was more comfortable when Anubis was weighing our hearts against the Feather of Ma’at, than I was a few weeks ago, watching a young woman torn apart on Twitter because she didn’t put her hand over her heart when the national anthem played.

I don’t care for this new god.  It is hungry and arbitrary in a way that makes the most capricious of the old gods seem tame by comparison.

It is not a god we can fight.  There are no temples to burn or idols to smash.

If we would not give ourselves fully to this new god, we must then seek to starve it, to deny it our attentions and concern.  We must live our lives freely, without casting arbitrary judgement on others and playing our brief parts for an audience of none.

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Filed under Death, Modern Life, Mythology, Philosophy, Religion, The Gods

Maybe (a prayer)

Maybe they danced,

Talked,

Caroused,

Flirted.

Maybe they couldn’t stand the crowd and longed for the trip home.

Maybe they felt the pulsing energy around them and couldn’t tear themselves away.

Maybe…,

I don’t know.

I didn’t know them.

But I know they were beautiful.

And I know that they found beauty in each other,

And in the love and freedom that surrounded them.

And they died for it.

They died,

Because some people…,

Maybe just a few,

But too many,

Can see only ugliness in that which they do not understand.

So their lives were cut short, their spirits released.

And I wonder which God will step forward to shelter them?

Which Savior?

Which Prophet or Saint will guide their way?

If none of theirs, then I offer mine.

Freely.

May the fair Goddess on black wings guide them swiftly to better shores then these.

As worthy as any soldiers, these spirits, slain in someone else’s war.

Let her keening rise up until the heavens crack.

Until all the priests,

And the politicians,

And all who trade in fear and hate,

Have fled at last beneath the shadow of their empty pulpits.

And then,

In the quiet that follows,

Those who have eyes to see beauty,

In all of its wonderful diversity,

Will be free to dance,

And to love,

And to live,

Finally without fear.

That, my friends, may be too much to hope for.

But is such a thing too much to pray for?

It may be.

But if enough of us raise our voices,

If we join our cry with her’s,

And all the gods hear us,

Maybe not.

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Filed under Death, Modern Life, Prayer, Religion, The Gods

Fragile

The Jehovah’s Witnesses came by again this week…,

…right on schedule…,

…as I was sitting down to lunch.

-sigh-

It was the same old fellow who’s been coming by for years now, only this time he had his wife with him, which I can only remember happening once before.

We exchanged pleasantries and spoke for a few moments about work and the pleasant weather we’d been having.  Then he handed me their little monthly booklet, and began to share a sampling of his particular brand of wisdom.

All while my grilled cheese slowly cooled on its plate.

My mind wandered a bit, I must admit.

Usually I do a better job of paying attention, because however else I feel about his little visits, I know that he means well and I am always interested in better understanding what other people believe.  Otherwise, I’d have shooed him off long ago.

But I’d been looking forward to that sandwich all morning, and they’re never as good reheated as they are right off the skillet, and…,

…then he said something that DID catch my attention.

He said the we were “not built to die.”

In my mind I quickly rewound the last couple minutes and then skimmed it forward again, this time listening for content.  He’d been speaking of the subject matter of this month’s Watchtower, having to do with how people should react when a loved-one dies.  “People are always surprised by death,” he said.  “And the reason for that, is that when God made us, we were immortal.  Death always takes us by surprise because we were not built to die, and so we lack the programming to deal with it properly.”

When I caught back up to the present moment my visitor and his wife were already making their way back down my front walk.  We’d exchanged parting pleasantries, and as usual, I’d assured him that I would consider his words carefully.

And I have at that.

“Not built to die,” he said.

I couldn’t get those words out of my head as I sat, munching on my cold sandwich.

He’s a nice enough guy, but he could not possibly be more wrong.

Living is a thing that we do in absolute defiance of the odds.

And dying?

Death is not the enemy, it is hardwired into our biology.

I wonder if my door-knocking friend has ever heard of the Hayflick limit.

It turns out that the cells in our bodies can only divide themselves a set number of times.  With each division, the length of a cell’s DNA is slightly shortened, and eventually, just shy of about 60-divisions, our cells can no longer reproduce and they begin to wear out and break down.

It’s a bit like that “best if used before…,” tag that we see stamped on a loaf of bread or a carton of milk.  Barring accident or disease we’re fine up until that predetermined point, and then from there it is only a matter of time.

And this isn’t something that just happened to us one day.

It’s not an accident, and it’s not some ridiculous punishment for eating fruit off of the wrong tree in a magical garden somewhere.

If your belief is that we were designed, than that designer built us to die.  If you don’t believe in a designer, it’s still true, because the way life evolved on this planet is that it can only exist through the action of death.

Life is precious precisely because it is temporary.

****

I had another unexpected visitor this week.

Just a couple days after the Jehovah’s Witnesses came by, I arrived home from work to find a screech owl sitting in the middle of my front yard.

The sun was long set, and a bird of this kind should have been on the wing, hunting for insects and the like.  Instead, it sat almost motionless in the grass, hard to see in the darkness but still an easy target for neighborhood cats.

Assuming that it must be injured or sickly, I tipped an empty laundry basket over it, to keep it in place, and then, wearing thick gardening gloves, reached under the basket to collect the little creature and place him in a cardboard box, for ready delivery to another of my neighbors who does wild bird rescue and rehabilitation.

I’ve never held a screech owl in my hands.

They seem profoundly fragile things, and lifting it out from under the basket felt a bit like holding a feathered soap-bubble.  I was moving quickly, so as to cause as little stress as possible, so I only caught a brief glimpse of those big yellow eyes.  It made an alert sound with its beak, a bit like flicking your fingernail against a hard wood surface: tap-tap-tap.  And then it was safe in a box and, I hope, off to a speedy recovery from whatever ails it.

Holding that small creature in my hands, I could feel the fragility that is life.

For an owl, a mouse, a blade of grass, or the mightiest tree.

The soul may move on to some other place.

It may even return to live again.

But immortality for this life or any other is a false hope.

We cling to life because it is temporary, because it is fragile.

Why else do we cling to each other?

May Mushroom

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Filed under Death, Nature, Philosophy, Religion, Science, Spiritual Journey

There are plenty of ways to die.

We are, as a species, both fearful and fascinated by death.  And the more time passes, the more we push back against certain boundaries, the more interconnected we become, the more preoccupied we seem to grow with the most unlikely of threats to our well being.

We spend too much of our time living in obscure ‘what-ifs’ and not enough in the now.

We give ourselves over to fear, and we grow smaller in the bargain.

So let’s take a moment and go through it.


The vast majority of us will succumb to simple mechanical failure…,

Hearts stop ticking.
The vessels grow clogged with gunk.
Oxygen delivery becomes less than efficient.
The lightning in our minds that form thought and feeling becomes turbulent.


Most of the rest of us will fall to some kind of disease…,

Infections that taint the blood or clog the lungs.
Cancers that turn our own cellular building blocks against us.


Your next most likely exit is through simple accident…,

Our balance fails us.
We regularly handle objects which are sharp or heavy.
Often we run and jump and fly and drive, because these are the things of living.
And sometimes it is the living that kills us.


A tiny few of us have our lives taken away by another…,

War takes some.
Acts of terrorism account for a handful.
But far more often, it is our own neighbors who kill us.
Or the people we love best.


There are plenty of ways to die, and the statistics don’t lie.

But we see big flashing numbers on the news and we are convinced that the thing which is least likely to take us, is the thing waiting just around the corner to do us in.  We become convinced that someone is coming for us, someone wants us dead, the knives are sharpening, the explosives are being wrapped in duct-tape, there are clocks and triggers and backpacks and high profile targets and you’d better be safe and you’d better stay safe and you’ll never be safe…!

You’ll never be safe because we are going to die.

But any one of us is 35,000 times more likely to die of a heart attack than we are in a terrorist attack.  Yet, by and large, I don’t see that many of us suddenly laying off the cheese-burgers.

Which brings us to another way to die, one I haven’t mentioned yet.

Sometimes we kill ourselves…,

And here is one place where I think the statistics DO lie, because it’s not always as straight forward as a gun to the head or an overdose of prescription meds.  Sometimes, yes, we kill ourselves all at once.  But more and more I think we’ve begun to do it so slowly that we don’t even know it’s happening.

People won’t give up eating fatty foods, but they’re sure wiling to give themselves over to fear.

Some of us can’t face a world full of (mostly imagined) boogymen without the security blanket of a weapon in our pocket.

Some of us would rather not face the world at all, when it’s so much safer to just sit in our homes and watch the news and fret about all the growing dangers outside.

And here lately, all too many of us are happy enough to switch off the very traits that make us human: our sense of compassion, our willingness to endure personal sacrifice to ease the hardship of our less fortunate brothers and sisters.

Make no mistake folks, we have become a culture which is living in fear.

And I don’t think I’d call that ‘living’ at all.

I find it disheartening that in this season of thanksgiving, when we are urged to count our many blessings, that bravery and generosity of spirit do not seem to number among them.

There are plenty of ways to die.

The real question is, in the long run, will we be able to live with ourselves?

Refugeess

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October Stories: The Fields of the Dead

The weeds, so late in the season, had been reduced to clumps of tall spindly stalks.  They reached almost to our knees as we stalked our prey across the field, tawny spikelets rasping together in the cooling October breeze.

We fanned out slowly.  Each taking a few large steps forward and then sweeping one leg forward and across in a low arc, the crunch of tall grass bending and breaking underfoot, while we scanned the ground before us for any sign.

Another few steps.

Another sweep of the leg.

And again, widening our distance.

And again.

And there!  A flash of white between grayish-green blades of grass.  My hand thrust downward, looking for purchase, for something hard and rough wedged into the earth.  And then the grip and pull against a resistance from roots above and soil below.

A few moments spent shaking the dirt away before I can properly see what I’ve found.

“Got one,” I shout to the others, “I think it’s a shoulder bone!”

“Good, now look for the rest.  We’ll keep going.”

Smiling at the club-like form in my hand, I give it a couple more good shakes, dirt flying from a thousand hollow pockmarks which seem to line one flattened edge, and then I give it a gentle toss into the low grass at the edge of the field.

I make that sweeping motion with my foot again, and then again, until I see more white peeping up from below.  More bones to gather, weathered and stained, from the hungry earth.

She does not easily yield that which she has been given.

***

Throughout my high-school years my parents and I lived next to a small cattle ranch.  Its glory days long since passed, the property was held by two elderly ladies, mother and daughter, who kept their small herd more out of habit than anything else.

I fed the cattle and my father sometimes pitched in when the owners needed him for fence repairs or brush removal.

There were never more that a couple dozen head wandering the fields in those days, and there was more than ample space for them to roam and graze.  As I recall, there was only one small field closed off to them: the grassy crown of a wide hill, hidden back behind the main house and the barn, surrounded by trees and left to seed.

We called it the bone yard.

From time to time, one of the herd would die, usually of age, and the owners would hire someone to throw a chain around its neck and drag it off with a tractor, into that lonesome circle.

There the bodies were transformed, by scavengers and time, into a loose collection of bones, picked clean and scattered across the area of flattened grass where the carcass once lay.

Still more time would pass and the bones, bleached by sun and rain, would begin their slow progress into the earth.

Or maybe they where dragged downward.

Certainly the roots seemed loath to give them up.

***

And those old bones might have vanished into the ground forever, had my father not volunteered to run the P.T.O Spook-House at my High School’s fall carnival.

Halloween in a small towns of Texas, populated as they tend to be, by the more evangelical flavors of the Christian faithful, can be a complex bit of business.

Oh the people do chatter about paganism and devil worship, and everyone is doing it, and everyone knows that everyone else is doing it, and they all pretend that they are doing something else entirely.

It’s very much the way they deal with sex, except that sometimes there are costumes involved…,

…so, I guess it’s exactly the same.

Halloween is therefore rebranded as a “Harvest Festival” or a “Fall Carnival”, which in an astonishing coincidence, includes costumes, bobbing for apples, a scavenger hunt, and a spook-house.

Oh, and a cake-walk!

And I can tell you, having participated in both, that nothing so closely resembles a poorly managed Neo-Pagan rite, than a cake-walk in small town Texas.  Particularly when the participants are trying ever so desperately to avoid the appearance that they might be involved in a dance of any description.

And that might make a good topic for another day…,

…but I was trying to explain why we were out in a field gathering animal bones.

That’s no great mystery really.

If you live in the country and are looking for props to decorate a spook-house, why pour good money into a bunch of cheaply made plastic crap, when there are entire skeletons in some neighbors field that can be dressed up in spiderwebs and a blacklight.

Because bones., skeletons…, the dead…, these things are frightening.

Or so I am given to understand.

***

A lot of time has passed since that day spent with family, harvesting cow bones under an October sky.  And in that time I have often been drawn to the fields of the dead.

In recent years have walked across hills dotted with dolmen and crouched in the heart of mighty passage tombs.  These are the necropoli, the cities of the dead, built by our prehistoric ancestors to house and honor the dead.

In my college days I spent a lot of time in the special collections section of the University library.  There I found old property survey maps that showed every graveyard in a five county area around my home.

Many of these I visited, when I could find them at all; so many have become forgotten, resembling little more than a weed-choked jumble of markers, the names and dates long worn away.  Still others were in surprisingly good condition, considering their remote locations.

I walked these places by day, looking at the names, the dates, words love and loss and hope etched in stone and left to us – to remember, or to forget.

Old Grave

On rare occasions, when the whim took me, I would visit at night.  And I’ll confess that on more than one of these nocturnal visits, I brought a date.

There is something primal and powerful about wandering among the graves with only the moon and a flashlight to guide you.  I do not recall ever experiencing the supernatural dread which people attach to these places, but the feeling of nervous excitement they generate is, happily, both contagious and easily directed toward other ends.

In my experience, however, the dead do not linger in the places where we lay their bones, but are far more occupied with that point in space where their existence slipped from this world into that other realm which parallels our own.

Perhaps those shades would spend more time there if the living were more frequent visitors by day…,

…or night.

***

I drive through my neighborhood and I see yards decorated with plastic skeletons and faux grave stones.  We erect pretend graveyards on the lawn to inspire seasonal fear, and we avoid actual graveyards like death itself lingered there.

Movie Skeletons

Is this what people are worried about, that the dead are going to suddenly spring up like skeleton warriors from the Hydra’s Teeth in an old Ray Harryhausen movie?

Did you know that in the 19th Century, cemeteries were treated like parks?  People strolled the paths between the stones, they picnicked on the wide green lawns within sight of the markers of family and friends.

In the early days of the Roman Republic, the dead were buried in the homes of their family, where they could be properly honored and cared for by those who loved them most in life.

We think of ourselves as an advanced culture, sophisticated in ways that the ancients could never hope to understand.  And yet as we have advanced, we have drawn ourselves further and further from the fields of the dead.  Empty bones have become objects of dread and ancient feast days must be rebranded so as not to offend those with delicate sensibilities.

Say what you will about the dead, the living are just weird!

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Filed under Culture, Death, Holidays, Modern Life, Religion, Spiritual Journey, Traditions

Small Problems

They bring me their problems.

There is a glitch in this program.  My screen looks funny.  Why is it so slow?  I can’t find the essay I was working on.  It’s never made that sound before.  Where are all of my pictures?

They bring me their problems and it’s my job to help them.

Often they are frantic, or disgusted.  They might be angry on occasion, even belligerent.

And when we are done, if I have solved their problem, some of them are genuinely thankful.  More often, however, they seem somewhat detached from the experience, almost dismissive.

I think it has to do with the fact that they believe this thing that happened to them, shouldn’t have happened.  They should not have had to come to me at all, and I am, whatever my efforts on their behalf, tainted as a result.

It’s not a big deal, people don’t like going to the doctor either.  I understand, and for the most part, I don’t even notice.  Because I’m already moving on to the next customer, and the one after that.

And then you meet someone different, like the little old lady who came to me last week.

She was smiling and pleasant, and far more patient than she had any right to be.

“Hello,” she said, with a warm light in her eyes, “My name is —–, I have a terminal brain tumor and only a few weeks left to live.  This is my computer and I’d like you to erase all of my information from it, so that my husband can use it after I’m gone.”

I spent about forty minutes with her, trying to squeeze a little more life into a computer that was, itself, not in the best of health.  As I worked, she spoke in snippets about her own life, things she thought I might be interested in, like her adventures as a young woman in the workplace, using the sort of computers which most of us have only seen in old movies, the kind that would fill an entire room.

Here I was, fighting to take up as little of her precious time as I was able, and she, in turn, was doing what she could to make those moments count, by sharing her own experiences, by forging a connection with a complete stranger.

I did what I could for her, which, I am afraid, wasn’t much, and then she was gone.

And with the passage of a few more weeks, I suppose she really will be.

Gone and gone, except for the memories she left behind, of which I am now privileged to carry a few — her knowing smile, her laugh, and a handful of nostalgic remembrances of a technology which was as remarkable in those days as moon landings and the polio vaccine.

In the days that have passed, it has been difficult to care as much about all the little technical issues which people bring me.  Their all too frequent indignation seems misplaced and misspent.  And I wonder, if they knew how much time they really had, if they would still choose to squander it the way they do, with so much energy focused on such small problems.

I mean, it’s not as if every one of them isn’t dying as well.

****

We live in a society which, for the most part, sees life, the actual business of living, as a means to an end.  For several hundred years now, the dominant belief has been that we are born, live and die as prelude to an eternal afterlife.  The shape in which we find that ever-after, is determined, or so we are taught, by our actions in this life.

If you are a bad person, you will spend eternity suffering for your misdeeds.

If you are a good person, you may look forward to a euphoric hereafter.

And we can set aside here, the question of what happens to good people who don’t believe the right way.  Because, it is the basic premise that is important here: life as proving ground for afterlife.  That idea which has come to shape the very structure of our lives.

We work throughout the day with the expectation that once the clock hits that magical hour, we head home, or out on the town, or wherever it is we think of as our due reward for the last few hours of toil.

The days run together and everybody’s working for the weekend.

Or that next spot of vacation.

Or retirement.

Work now and play later.

Suffering = Reward.

All based on a promise that no one has ever been able to actually verify.

There are, of course, competing philosophies.

Atheism, for example, does not believe in any ultimate reward, but neither does it aspire to truly reshape society in any particular way.  The atheistic world view is pretty much just the monotheistic one, subtracting the God and all of its trappings.

You’re still working for the weekend, only, without church.  So, you’ll have a little more time to relax.  The world is still the world and you’d better be willing to work and conform to everyone else’s expectations of what that looks like, if you want to get along.

I suppose, without the dogma attached, the average Atheist might be a little less tolerant toward actual suffering.  There is no greater purpose to be found in the bad things that happen.  No deity tossing Jobian hardships your way as a test of your faith.

In the other extreme, there are those Eastern philosophies which have gained a certain momentum in the West over the last century or so.  Almost the exact opposite of the Atheistic world view, the Eastern thinker, sees the material world as an illusion, cluttering our minds and blocking our way to spiritual Nirvana.

All the day to day bullshit we go through, is exactly that, bullshit.  And meaningless.

Just close your eyes and let it all go.

Which is all very cool, but I don’t really see a philosophy based on ignoring the material world, making any huge impact upon it.  Even if we were counting the nationwide rise in the volume of yoga classes, we’re still talking less about a path to enlightenment, than we are, mom’s little reward to herself that she can fit in during the afternoon, while the kids are at soccer practice.

Atheism and Eastern Philosophy are just tiny eddies in the torrent which has formed at the conflux of the rivers Monotheism and Capitalism, and most who try to swim against that current are doomed to drown.

****

So here’s another philosophy for you to consider, another way of looking at the world, just a single drop of water in the deluge.

What if there is no everlasting reward or punishment, and no good and evil vying for our souls?  What if this life is neither a proving ground nor a distraction?

Imagine for a moment, that there is no distinction between the wholly physical world of the Atheist and the wholly spiritual world of the Buddhist, because those worlds are one and the same.  No closing our eyes and ears against the mathematical without blocking out the mystical, and vice versa.

What if we were beings of flesh and spirit in equal measure, and our actions, how we treat ourselves and each other, have the power to shape our experience of this world and all those worlds which exist just beyond the borders of our sight?

In such a world, there would be no distinction between those actions which are holy, and those which are, in our culture, seen as mundane.

Once, there were many who understood the world in this way.  For a time, they ruled the world from the British Isles, through what was once Gaul, and a patchwork of shifting boundaries that stretched eastward across Europe as far as Asia Minor.

That way of thinking, for the most part, died out long ago.  Put to the sword, first by the Legions of Rome, and later, by a new hybrid religion which took root in the death throes of the old empire, and then spread far beyond its borders.

Some would say that if the Celtic way of seeing the world had been correct, it wouldn’t have been so easily forgotten.

That may be so.  But I’ve never been one to equate popularity with truth.

Life is not a test.  Life is a quest.  Everything we do, every kindness and misdeed is but a step upon a path that we can never see, except when we occasionally turn and look behind us.  There is no heaven or hell, no final reward or judgement, and no true finality, as death is simply a passage over the horizon to a realm which is just beyond our sight.  And if our ancestors spoke true, there may be more worlds beyond that.  Or perhaps the path doubles back from time to time, and we find ourselves here again.

But whatever lies beyond those horizons, we are hear now, and the time we have is precious.

There is no sin in this world, unless it is the sin of missed opportunities.  I look around and see a world of people who are just milling about, waiting for the curtain to rise on some final act that is never going to come.  The inertia is tangible, I can feel it holding me in place like some ancient insect caught in amber, and by all the gods I am terrified that I will never escape.

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I’ve never really spoken about my job in these pages because I don’t see it as part of my spiritual life.  Maybe that is my fault.  Maybe I’ve fallen into the same trap as everyone else, and I’ve come to understand the world as a polarity that does not actually exist.  I’ve got the mortgage and the car payment, I’ve got all the little creature comforts and tribulations that are supposed to distract me from the fact that I’m being pushed downstream along with everyone else.

And it’s so hard to swim against that current, when the small problems weigh me down.

But I want more for myself, than life on a river to nowhere.

I’m that guy who makes your technology work again, who pays his bills, and votes in the elections, and donates to charities, and comes over to help you build some shelves, and writes a blog, and who can never find the time to complete his remodeling projects, and wonders what it would have been like to have had children, and wishes that he’d sacrificed more for his art, and, and, and…,

Life is a quest, and I’ve come late to that knowledge.

But how late is too late?

And how will I find my path?

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