So, here's what I'm going to try to do.
Even though I don't have Lent as a time-support, I think I want to return to something like a daily writing discipline. For me, of course. (I had a friend from Buffalo NY, a writer, who told me, when I said I thought my journal entries were too doleful and negative, "Journals are always whiny." So at least I knew that either I wasn't doing anything wrong, or everyone was)
Well, I seem to be encased in this isolation, for some reason. I don't even want to answer the telephone. I haven't signed onto Facebook in I don't know how long, and now that it's become the major medium for social converse, at least among folks of a certain age, I might as well have moved to some deep little valley in the Himalayas, where electricity can't get through. In a way, I think of it as being dead.
Ah, being dead. My favorite stumbling block. I've noticed, on AOL News (regrettably, the sole source of outside information I consult these days. I could have great complexion, and know what Kim said to Michelle, if I cared) that there have been some surveys recently, charting the degree of belief and non-belief in God, among Americans. The articles haven't been all that detailed about how the study was done, or how many people were asked, but what interested me was the consternation expressed by two journalists, at the fact that some 31% of young people expressed a doubt in a Supreme Being.
Readers of this blog will perhaps remember how divergent my own religious views are, contrasted with strict orthodoxy, as laid out by the Episcopal Church. (I guess the Presbyterians have something like this too, but that predetermination hurdle is just too much for me to bear) When I've taken those online political quizzes, that claim to place the individual taking the test on some kind of political spectrum, I generally end up 'way left, with the Czech Communists. I have no idea where I'd end up, if there were a similar test for religious beliefs. I might actually be a Wiccan?
Anyway, my latest complaint, if you will, is this: if someone believes that there is a caring, all-knowing Deity, looking out for us in our daily lives on the planet (I'm restraining myself here, for brevity's sake), why on earth hasn't that caring, all-knowing deity explained, or made transparent to us, the meaning, experience, and consequences of death? There's certainly been enough time. There's plenty of material to work with -- no end of burnt toast to use, if all else fails.
I'm thinking now of a little event I witnessed, years ago, when I was much more observant and fervent and a couple of other -ents. I had joined some of my fellow believers at the modest home one of them had made available for a religious and social function. While we were all still getting ourselves settled, while the pleasant hum of agreeable conversation lay like a layer of incense in the room, a blonde little girl of about six came into the room. She was wearing a blue dress, and shiny black shoes. There was a group of seven of us adults gathered near the stairwell, and she came over, and stood before the person furthest to my right.
"Am I going to die?" she asked. She had a kind of smile on her face. The young man shook his head no. The little girl moved over one step, and looked at the next young man, who was sitting on the floor.
"Am I going to die?" she asked. This young man shook his head no as well.
I figured I was about number five in this group, and we could all clearly hear what she was asking, from the first. And even though I was trying my best to figure out a non-damaging way to answer her question honestly, when she came and stood in front of me, and asked her single question, I lied just like everyone else.
Maybe, if one of us had been older, one of us could have fielded this question with more grace and truth. "Yes, my dear, everyone who is born must die." Spreading out the burden -- like pointing out that everyone's getting that nasty stomach virus that's making your life hell -- seems a tine-honored tactic. It's the next, logically connected question that's the stumbling block. It's when the little blonde girl in the blue dress and shiny shoes asks why.
Well, don't you know, I seem to be terribly, terribly stuck. I can't honestly tell if I'm having a kind of temper tantrum, like a three-year-old, and refusing to... get over it. But this topic, for me, seems to be insurmountable. (It's also not what I thought I'd be writing about. But there you are) It threatens to take all the savor out of life -- for me, it reduces everything I do to some stupid, meaningless dance of evasion. And the additional horror, of realizing that I surely can't live long enough, at this point, to be able to rectify and redeem all the things I've screwed up in my life. Much less use all my oil paint.
Oddly enough -- very oddly, as a matter of fact, given the isolation I mentioned before -- the one 'thing', if you will, that I seem to be able to identify for myself, clearly and unambiguously, as being of tremendous value and maybe even ultimate reality, is the caring and committed relatedness that can exist between human beings. I'm not talking solely about marriage here -- I'm talking about the way, if I ask someone at the cash register how she is, she seems genuinely surprised that I notice that she's there, and she tells me a little, fifteen-word story. For some crazy reason, this seems to be what I value most highly now.
I wonder where that little blonde girl is now, whether she's still alive or not. Whether, if she had children herself, she'd be able to tell them the truth.
Tomorrow, I want to talk about paper.
© 2012 Walter Zimmerman