Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Keeping Isabelle Happy..........

Bumbling along from day to day, I sometimes wonder where I'm going, why I'm going there, what, if anything, will happen when I get there, and does any of it matter? When I was growing up there was no requirement to think, apart from muddling out the answers to arithmetic homework. In fact we were discouraged from questioning, especially in matters of religion. The Church had all the answers, even before we asked the questions. Don't worry, put your faith in God, say your prayers, do what you're told, go to confession on Saturday, to Mass on Sunday, don't pull your sister's hair or kick your brother in the shins, don't eat meat on Fridays and, for heaven's sake, keep your legs together.

But now, it seems to me, religion has lost its stranglehold on our lives. I find myself disillusioned, and vaguely angry that I was fed all those pat answers, and frowningly discouraged from asking "why?" and other impertinent questions. I have not suddenly stopped believing in God, but it does seem that a lot of what I was taught growing up were simply stories to make us conform, to make us behave a certain way, to make us easy to control. And who is it that wants us to be so docile?

One of the "givens" was that if we lived by the rules we'd go to heaven in the end and be happy there for all eternity. Heaven was a vague, pastel place, full of fluffy clouds, and angels sporting huge, feathery wings, making beautiful music on various stringed instruments. It was a place where you would be re-united with all the people you had loved who'd died before you. The party line was that the only thing that died was your body. Your soul, or spirit, that intangible that made you you, would live on. It was up to you, and how well you conformed with all the rules, whether you would spend eternity in the pastel place, or in a fiery, much hotter place, listening to horrible rap for all eternity.

Several people I loved have died over the years. When I was younger I just assumed they went to heaven. Certainly I hoped they did, since I wasn't anxious for anyone close to me to end up in the other place. But it has always bothered me that I have never had the slightest feeling that those people, who were close to me, are close or somehow nearby, watching over me, now that they're gone.

There's little comfort in the phrase "Life's a bitch and then you die." So, even though I'm suspicious now of a lot of what we "learned" in school from the nuns, I still cling to the idea of a life of the spirit, of the effectiveness of prayer, of trying to be "good," even if there is no "eternal reward." Just because I'd rather be good than bad. And then you get into definitions, and you could speculate all night!

I wonder if everyone is torn this way between the "life's a bitch..." attitude and wanting to cling to beliefs that comforted us when we were children? I really want to believe there is a master plan, that Someone with a clue is in charge, and that we can trust that Someone to ensure that the universe, and our lives, and our childrens' lives are unfolding according to plan.......

I hope St. Patrick smiled on you today...

10 comments:

Warty Mammal said...

Unsettling and necessary thoughts. I have nothing particularly helpful or comforting to say, but I do wish you the best.

persiflage said...

I do not know what to say either. I like much of the ritual, the tradition, the history, but there have been so many bad things, and it is distressing that there are so many hang-ups, and repression, of sexuality and the treatment of women. Leading a good life is something we should strive to do.

persiflage said...

PS. Happy St Patrick's Day to you, too. and to everyone. I admired a green necklace worn by a woman at the bus stop, and wished her a happy feast day. She said she'd just been to a St Patrick's Day lunch. "Look at these caps they gave us" she said. "I'll have to give them to the grandchildren."

Thimbleanna said...

Put me right in line there with you Molly! Oh, the wonder! I (playing devil's advocate) was once in a "discussion" with a fundamentalist and he said "But why would anyone be good to other people, if they didn't believe they were commanded to do so." I tried to tell him that being a believer didn't make you a good person. That you CAN be good to others if you question or don't believe. He didn't get it though.

And I always say...If Isabelle's happy, then I'm happy!!!

dianne said...

i find dimes in unusual places ... sometimes i will walk by a spot that didn't have a dime ten minutes before, but find that now there is a dime lying there ... i think the dimes are from my dad (you've heard of pennies from heaven? well - my dad is a big spender) - just to let me know, in a tangible way, that he's still around ... that's not what i was led to believe when i was growing up in a Southern-Baptist-except-for once-a-year-you-can-go-to-Catholic-Mass-just-to-appease-the-other-side-of-the-family household ... but i think it might be true and it works for me ... most of the time

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

Like many cradle Catholics , I haven't left it all behind .
I lit a candle the other day with a heartfelt desire that me and mine continue to thrive . I do it whenever I visit a church , which these days is nearly always as a tourist .
But , I don't think that the Church knows best , that non-believers are lesser beings , that only Children of Mary go to Heaven , that if I'm wearing a scapula when I die I'll be whisked straight into Heaven .
Truly good people exist everywhere and we should all strive to do no harm , at the very least .Not for our Eternal souls ..... just because we owe it to each other .
As for one's immortal soul ? We'll live on as individuals as long as we are remembered by someone . That's enough , I think .But I quite understand that many people would find this a bleak thought and need more .

Stomper Girl said...

Happy belated St Pat's to you too. I never think there's a master plan but I do think life is a miracle! The more I think about it the more incredible it seems!

Isabelle said...

Ooh, thank you for keeping me happy! I'm feeling a bit less happy these days but that cheered me up.

Apart from the bit about death and the absence of master plans, mind you. If there is a plan it must be a fairly complicated one which hasn't quite worked yet.

And St P greetings from me too, rather late.

Meggie said...

I think your thoughts are shared by a great many folk. There are times when I feel desperate, and then I wish I had some sort of belief to fall back upon for comfort.

Pauline said...

I change my mind a lot about what I believe - it keeps me on my toes