I Believe

Everything is closed here on Good Friday, and nothing on TV. With this Easter being the first one I will actually spend in Puerto Rico, I have started looking for a church to go celebrate. This is what a glass of Puerto RIcan rum and a bit of YouTube jukebox for the best live version of a single song and seeing a small Good Friday church procession brought out…
 
I believe…
 
Credos are problematic things. To enshrine in words everything that one believes seems limiting, unimaginative; created to be just long enough that their memorization proves a modicum of devotion the theology, the philosophy.
With that said, I believe…
 
I believe that spreading joy, love and happiness is our purpose on earth.
 
I believe in God, but even though I was raised in a church, but I don’t believe in them anymore. At least not for me. I see the benefit of the culture, of the sense of belonging, of the guided tour through life’s bigger questions. As a traveler, I never like the guided tours, preferring instead the possibility of getting lost to the limits of what someone else thinks I should see and do.
 
I believe he is loving, but in order to let him off the hook for the bad things in the world, I don’t describe him as all-powerful, or interventionist. Oops. I pray to him for thanks, but rarely to ask for things, even when it’s tempting to beg for the health or life of a child, for the easing of someone’s pain, even my own. Maybe because he has given me the strength to push on through, until, at worst, I learn to live with it, or, at best, well, live again.
 
I believe that we are given free will, and bring into our lives that which we need the most. Our pains and our sufferings are the tests we need to pass. We frequently fail, myself included, not because the divine hand didn’t intervene or guide us, but because we fell victim to our fears, our desires, our limitations.
 
I believe that the ultimate achievement of a human being is to be strong without being tough. To remain gentle while overcoming fear and pain, is to aspire to being divine. Think about all the saints, martyrs, prophets, and disciples in the all of the world’s religions and scriptures. Ultimately, their mission was love. To do all of this while remaining humble, well, one has to have goals, beyond the squad type.
 
I believe that I am able to feel this way because I was lucky enough to have a family that went to church, so that I, at least, have something to base my own deviant views. Had I to do parenthood over, I would have offered my children the same opportunity.
 
I believe in always trying to be a better person. That yesterday’s failure is today’s inspiration.
 
I believe that I have a lot left to learn about how to be a good person. Watching my elderly neighbor call out to the homeless to offer an unsolicited meal taught me to do the same. To this day, I will not ignore a panhandler, even if it is to apologize for not having a bit to share.
 
I believe in giving without concern about what people will do with my donation. So what if it’s drugs, or alcohol? Many of them are much more than a couple of dollars away from a “normal” life, so what if they choose to use mine for whatever form their palliative self-medication takes. I am too weak to take them in, to give them that real boost to health, out of the streets, so who am I to judge them?
 
I believe that I have a long way to go. Even if diminished, I have materialistic wants, corporal desires, unkind thoughts, and spiritual failings. The reason I have a Greek/Spanish version of >fear tattooed on my inner forearm is so that I can see it, daily, and remind myself. In the hope that, one day, I will actually live that way.
 
I believe in the saying that you judge a society by how it treats its youngest and its oldest. I would add animals to the list. I realize the hypocrisy of an omnivorous, leather-wearing non-vegan saying that, but I really want even the animals that end up as products to have a nice life until that point. I cry at the videos of animal rescues and rehabilitation. That damaged pit bull who desperately, fearfully inches towards the outstretched hand of his rescuer? Yeah, he’s a good boy, and I am a bloody mess watching it. Every time.
 
I believe that we see too much of the world’s pain via a screen. I used not know how many people died in other parts of the world due to war, famine, illness, disaster, traffic accidents. I am not advocating an “ignorance is bliss” policy, but fuck, sometimes, maybe just maybe, I am not strong enough to see a bloodied, shell-shocked child sitting in a chair, his eyes betraying the incomprehensible that he’s just lived through. Especially when my own children, those I raised, and those raised by others, have first world problems that are no less important to them, and I, sometimes a long flight, away cannot shield them, shelter them, comfort them.
 
I believe in celebrating the successes of the people we love, without envy, without comparison to temper the joy at their success in areas where we have failed.
 
I believe that I am lucky, because in pockets of the world, there are people who, although I would never ask, would do just about anything to comfort me, to make me feel loved.
 
I believe that it’s foolish to believe that love, courage or strength means having no fear.
 
I believe that love, in taking that leap of faith with one person, in letting your kids take that step over the line of safety towards independence, in wearing your heart on your sleeve, is about overcoming fear.
 
I believe in, some, people.
 
I believe because I have been rewarded with love, time and again. In the arms of my friends’ parents, in the bosom of my aunt at my father’s funeral, in my mother’s lap the first time heartbreak made its presence felt, at many dinner tables, in darkened bedrooms and well-lit offices, in the tears of separation, in the faces of strangers who really wanted to make sure I was OK, in the touch of a hand of someone who sublimated their own needs for my own.
 
I believe that living a good life trumps belief in any one ideology.
 
I believe my parents, and the proverbial villages of my childhood, and those now, have done a great job raising me, and any failing lays squarely on my tanned shoulders.
 
I believe that I’ll have another drink.
 
In the (paraphrased) words of Nick Cave:
“I don’t believe in an interventionist God,
but I know that you do,
But if did, I would kneel down and pray,
And ask Him to watch over you…”
 
The face of God? I can’t think of more definitive proof that we were made in his image, because I have seen all of the love, and strength in the world not via some biblical manifestation, but in the smiles of children, the cataract-filled eyes of the elderly, in being witness to acts of kindness, of love, of faith.
 
I believe that this works for me, and is in no way meant to be some kind of atheist justification, or a condemnation of whatever path you choose. I believe I could be wrong about all of this, and that what I think are the lessons I need from this lifetime are the wrong ones.
 
I believe that I’ll end here. As I sit here, as we Christians observe Good Friday, 2017, I think about a loved one’s suggestion that what God has planned for us may not be immediately understandable by us, even for his own son, that “take this cup from me” moment, rings true.
 
God have mercy on me, if I am wrong. I guess I’ll find out in a few decades.
 
I believe in love. Isn’t that the point?
 
 
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