Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Faith - or not

If God is a fly on the wall, Nanny, hand me the flyswatter. (Gaby Brimmer)

When I was a child, I had a concrete vision of the soul. In the way of children, envisioning the insubstantial, unproven and questionable reality of what in essence is the core of every human being (or so we were taught) necessitated a vision of what that looked like.

For me, the soul was a small, somewhat spherical object- around the size of an apricot. A soft, aged ivory (for the shining, blinding purity of pure white was destined only for god and for the odd saint), it would feel warm and real in your hands (had you been able to hold it), full of gentle undulating hills and valleys with a tender, soft texture, a unique tapestry of the individual to whom it belonged, unlike anyone else’s and as exclusive to one person as fingerprints.

Sinning would darken the surface of the soul, a creeping, gray cloud of proof of your fall from grace…. the severity of the sin dictating the level of darkness and size of the area to which it spread. Confession of course would result in the magnificent, sweeping cleansing of your soul, the darkness obliterated in honest regret and sorrow at your transgressions. I was always grateful (then) to be Catholic and to have that incalculable opportunity of erasing all wrongdoing.

Somewhere along my path the past few years, I lost my soul.

I remember feeling it slipping, the slight sharp pain as the tendons and muscles keeping it snug within my chest began to loosen, snapping in the sharp wind of disbelief, shredding as doubts scissored revelation into tattered fragments of thought and belief slowly bloated and decomposed in the cloying heat of betrayal.

The hole which it left in my chest, though outwardly not apparent, has turned out to be an insidious, creeping rot leading to the ultimate destruction (and only lately am I wondering, re-creation) of who and what I am.

I sometimes feel insubstantial as mist, and see eddies of personality, of creativity, of individuality drifting away on the soft breeze of change, their moorings lost in the undulating, changing sea of lost beliefs. Sometimes, I feel as if I exist only as a reflection in someone else’s eyes – a one dimensional cut-out, to be moved and placed and dressed at another’s whim.

I feel removed from who I once thought I was – it as if I have already experienced death and like the recollections of those who have died and come back, see myself outside the corporeal reality of this body. Or conversely, it is as if I look behind me and wonder who that person WAS? She is a stranger to me, that silly woman, with her obdurate insistence on believing not just in god but in people in her life – this despite the overwhelming multitude of reasons NOT to.

I think that when you lose faith, there is a seismic eruption in the way in which you perceive the world.

One of the hardest lessons from this loss of faith was the necessity of redefining what I thought were the absolutes of memory. Because apparently, the way I remembered things was not the way the realities occurred, but were coloured by my naivety and trust, at the time offered up with a patina of credulousness.

Woven in the undulating reality of my aghast comprehension is a dark, sticky thread of rage, smaller than the skein of loss, less substantial than the thread of hopelessness but nonetheless insidious and concrete. Rage erupting from the knowledge that the leaching away of hope and belief is an inevitable consequence of a barrage of unpalatable truths and the revelation of lies, shot accurately and unerringly in the very spots where they will sustain the most damage.

You see, the problem with “absolutes” and the “leap of faith” (although technically, Søren Kierkegaard to whom this phrase is attributed, said leap to faith) is that when somehow you lose the capacity to make that leap, then there is a sudden awareness that the ground itself on which you stand is insubstantial and quaking beneath your feet.

Losing my ability to believe in an absolute like god was simply one facet of a complete and utter comprehension that my entire viewpoint was skewed and the interpretation of my world was at best, slanted, and at worst, incalculably tainted.

One thing it does is make one humble!

I’m always in awe of those who continue, despite perhaps, good and solid reasons NOT to, continue to believe.

In god, yes, but also that their futures hold hope and possibility. I salute those of you who continue to BELIEVE despite the imprecations of fate and events in lives that leave weaker individuals like myself yelling at the heavens and foreswearing faith ever again.

You’re damn impressive.

And in the meantime, if you happen to come across this little wizened grey object and you’re not entirely sure what the hell it is, just kick it over here, k?

and just because I think this little girl is the cutest little thing on the EARTH and one thing I do continue to have faith in is babies, enjoy this little video!


Buffalo said...

It's a given that this is well organized and well written. You would have it no other way.

I'm not going to quibble with your description of a soul. It is as good a description as any since no one know how they look - or if they exist.

Why would you rue a loss of faith in a deity, for whom there is no empirical evidence for its existence, or faith in a church that by its nature has a vested interest in said deity?

And at risk of being totally castigated for asking, why would you think a believer should be congratulated for their belief in something for which there isn't a shed of proof?

It seems to me, and I could be wrong, you should be overjoyed that you are questioning and learning. That's a good thing.

Anonymous said...

Hi selkie
I loved the video, the father and daughter dynamic in that video was a joy to watch! I guess that is what I like to focus on, wherever I can find joy and connection.
I can't kick over your soul...but I can send over tons of hugs.
Take care

selkie said...

Buff, you often manage to cut to te quick of the matter. I was taken aback at first with what you said; I just hadn't looked at it from that SIDE. Of course, having been brought up and been comfortable in my "believing" it was logical that not having that "BELIEVING' was in fact a loss. But truth be told, if thought, questioning of exitence and wonderment is a positive thing, then you're right - I shouldn't be mourning it.

In actual fact, I am slowly coming to acceptance of my disbelief; and in that respect, after more than 2 years of battling, finding a measure of peace.

Perhpas the joy in the wondering comes next. one can hope.

AG - is that NOT the sweetest thing you ever saw! We were all singing it in work today .. The Smartie Pants Dance, the Smartie Pants DAnce until one of my coworkers came with an alternative (properly more apropos) The Cranky Pants Dance, The Cranky Pants DAnce ....

and vis-a-vis the soul, i think even if you did find it, it would be broken so not to worry!

THE Michael said...

Your soul is as substantial and vital to you as it ever was, despite your loss of unquestioned belief in whatever you were indoctrinated to believe. The experiences you have had and will have will assist you in finding that connection to that soul you think you might have lost. Your soul is YOURS, and can only be defined by YOU. Just because this vital part of your validity might one day simply meld with all that is, ever was, and ever shall be, is no reason to think it is suffering any kind of loss in are precious, and you don't need some angry, jealous, tempestuous narcisist (invisible and all-powerful no less) to make it so.

Or, you can surrender to believing in nothing at all, and in the end I suppose it won't really matter one way or another.........but in the meantime.......

selkie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
selkie said...

Michael, my belief was a gentle one - no vengeful god had I! Truly, my parents brought me up to believe in a caring presence, a humanistic, understanding diety who recognized our human flaws. The night is dark and cold without a presence in it to lighten.

but one can't be MADE to believe ...

Loving Annie said...

Ah Selkie...
I felt the most lost when I did not know who I was...

It, well, sometimes you have to start forming YOU all over again, no matter what your age... Realizing what matters to you, what your values are, what your beliefs are, goals, etc., etc...
And then your soul comes back home :)


M:e said...

I couldn't have put it better than Annie, so I'm not going to try.

That was such a cute video, I'm sure the smarty pants dance will spread like ripples on a pond in the homes of your readers!

love and hugs xxx

selkie said...

Annie and M:e, I'm just beginning to realize that like the phoenix, one can arise from the ashes.... but no one ever said it was easy and didn't hurt.

Amber said...

I tend to agree with Pascal's Wager; you have nothing to lose by believing in God and everything to gain.

But I leave religion totally out of that equation. :)

Spiritual beliefs tend to morph and change as we grow. No worries. And what could be better anyway than a belief in babies? I believe in the power of babies too. :)

That's an adorable video and reminds me so much of my daughter at that age. Thank you for posting it.

Gillette said...

I read this post yesterday and had to sit with it. Juicy stuff.

For you see, this, these words you so eloquently write here is/are me and what I've been writing about, albeit in different ways.

I've been writing of Trust and keeping my Heart open. The posts, I guess, could have been construed as having to do with another person. But they aren't. This is about me and "god," although I would call it "the universe."

These last five years have been a "Ripping Apart Times" for me. Truly. I, too am a mere shadow of who I was a short time ago. A whisper, actually. I grieve that which I have created. The only other cycle to come close was when my family died off, one after the other, over the course of about eight years. My Man reports that this cycle has been worse for him than the death of his son.

It has been Big. We are both shell shocked.

Is it our age? Is it a gift from our souls...through Soul find those deeper places where no ground is needed... except the bone knowledge that we are the ground????

Blessings to you Selkie. Juicy, wondermous stuff. Painful, yes. But, oh, what potential lies here.

I wish you refinding a new, more glorious you. She awaits.

ronnie said...

What a cute video Selkie, thanks.
I keep singing it now and can't get it out of my head :)

selkie said...

Amber,you're right of course, our life views, our beliefs,our perceptions of the world change with the eddy and flow of life being lived, with new information,old information reassesed, experience.

and that little girl!!

Gillette - you put our finger on- what we are losing, what hurts as it morphs and changes, is our perception of TRUST. Whether trust in god, trust in an individual, but more than anything trust in OURSELVES. The hardest lesson (so far) has been the knowledge that trust in MYSELF was misplaced; in that what I thought, perceived, experienced, just was NOT the way I truly, internally, fully, felt it to be.

and yes, I DO believe it is partially age -not in a trite way, but in the profound reality that our eyes are opened to other vistas,other possibilities, other realities as we grow older.

I like the way you couch it, though, "soul choice" - so much more positive than angst.

ronnie, I must have watched that video a dozen times since wednesday - it makes me smile each and every time.

We now have the "cranky pants" dance in work!