Perhaps one of the greatest strengths of the Bible is that a single verse can be translated in hundreds of ways. Indeed there are over 450 translations of the English Bible alone… that’s 450 ways to word the same phrase. Then your favorite pastor, preacher, bishop, priest, rabbi, etc. will come along and tell you what he or she feels it means. With this is mind, it can be said with utmost certainty that there is no absolute truth in religion, it’s just a matter of perspective. There isn’t a way to actually prove anything in a faith based practice since it’s exactly that… faith based. Some take it to the point of often stating “it says in the bible that you shouldn’t (insert potential sin here)” and that alone has to suffice for everyone in the room. A single sentence, plucked out of the middle of scripture without regard for context, carries enough weight to determine everyone else is absolutely wrong, and are subsequently doomed to hell. As it was once made clear to me… “the bible says the dead know nothing of the living..” when I wondered as a teenager if my relatives were proud of me in heaven. Indeed, Ecclesiastes 9:5 does seem to state that fact, however it was actually being used to describe a particular perspective and not to be taken in the literal sense. I didn’t offer a rebuttal… heaven help anyone who ever disagreed with a bible verse quoted by a Southern Baptist holding a glass of sweet tea, while sitting on a plastic covered sofa cushion. It’s just not done.
It’s come to my awareness as of late, that the religious practice of interpreting ancient scripture and discerning its meaning to believers, is bleeding into the mainstream with things that aren’t very biblical at all. Christian conservatives, whom are already quite excellent in finding what they need from scripture to conveniently justify everything from hatred to the slaughter of endangered species, have adapted this technique quite well for use in the 21st century. Quite literally, even the most direct and clearest worded of statements, both written and verbal, are being argued as a matter of perspective instead of a matter of fact. The same kind of argument you’d expect to see when a rabbi, priest and a nun walk into a bar is now occurring everywhere within our legal and political system, and it’s extremely dangerous. The truth we all once knew, words spoken out of a person’s mouth or on a written document, is now easily dismissed and argued as if debating events in the Book Of Revelation. Accountability has been thrown out the window, and perspective or intentional avoidance of fact is now the norm. Hey if Pastor Glenn can do it, why can’t we?
“…heaven help anyone who ever disagreed with a bible verse quoted by a Southern Baptist holding a glass of sweet tea, while sitting on a plastic covered sofa cushion. “
A legal document was released recently, and within it, the conclusions of a two year investigation were revealed for all to see. Of course I’m talking about the now infamous Mueller Report. I can say very confidently, that I’m very happy our President didn’t knowingly collude with Russians to change the outcome of the election. That would have been really bad for all of us. And if you’re going to investigate a former President for lying about a blowjob, then you should probably investigate one that raised some major flags. Yet the contents of this report are being debated even when information is presented in clear and easy to read language. I’ve started reading the report myself, and let me say it’s much easier than reading scripture… there is nothing to debate when words speak for themselves. While the President might not have colluded with the Russians, he did some pretty ugly things to try and stop the investigation from happening. He also didn’t have a problem in using illegally obtained information for his own purposes…not illegal, but seriously not ethical. I’ve watched on television where someone is defending the President and clearly misrepresenting the words of the report, as if they could be translated in any other way. I can’t help but comparing this to the same way conservatives reference Jesus in one sentence and pick up the first stone in the next. The unconditional love and acceptance of Christ is the least thing being demonstrated by modern Christians. They don’t seem to read with any degree of comprehension the very bible they use as a weapon… just like this very clearly worded report. The truth isn’t convenient for them, so they’ll just twist it like they do anything else in scripture.
I posted on FaceBook the other day that there’s a huge problem with fact, perspective and opinion because people don’t seem to know the difference anymore. Arguably Christian conservatives are raised from a young age to believe they’re right and everyone is else wrong. The Earth isn’t three billion years old because God created it in seven days almost three thousand years ago. Of course that makes science inherently evil because it disagrees with scripture. It must be the work of the devil, so that means so is climate change and anything else science dishes out…. unless advanced medical care is necessary. Then everyone believes in science but of course credit goes to Jesus when the person recovers. This kind of thinking is seriously corrupting the way people rationalize in the real world. Truth has become extinct, and turned into something completely relative… and something worse, adaptable for personal gain.
Social media only enforces and strengthens this behavior, giving anyone with any kind of idea instant access to thousands of others that believe your idea and agree with it…regardless of actual fact or truth. Someone literally told me the other day I had to respect the views of flat Earthers because it was their belief. Okay so that’s dangerous folks, when facts and beliefs are being tossed around as if they are interchangeable. They are not. Facts are real and people are wrong when they disagree with a fact. Plain and simple. And this is really important because facts are connected to our view of what’s right and wrong… when society allows us to twist that around so easily, there’s no point in having any sort of legal system. Then there’s those that admit error in baseless claims, but point at someone else that did the same thing because somehow that makes it okay. Didn’t we get past that in… I don’t know like the third grade? What part of growing up and experiencing “but susy did it too!’ did people not understand?
If we can’t get our shit together as a nation, we’re in some deep trouble. If people can’t separate the kind of thinking you do at church versus the kind of thinking it takes to participate in a global community and run a country, we’re seriously fucked. Fact, perspective and opinion are completely different components within our awareness of real events. Lack of critical thinking… especially when completely intentional, has never led a country to greatness.
There’s a wonderful phrase in the Neopagan / Wiccan text The Charge of The Goddess, that states “If that which you seek, you do not find within yourself, you will never find it without. For I have been with you from the beginning, and I am that which is attained at the end of all desire.” Most recently I have come to identify with this sentiment more and more, and it caused me to put much thought into my spiritual path and where I am headed with it. Earlier this month, my partner Eric and I cruised to the ABC Islands in the Southern Caribbean, and it was in Bonaire, where we visited a desert and explored caves, that I realized I needed to go completely solo on my spiritual journey. Being surrounded by such natural beauty, feeling this deep connection to nature, made me feel that I was spending too much time seeking the unseen, when there was lots around me that I could already see, hear, taste and touch. And it just felt right that after all this time seeking advice from others, in a wide range of different faiths and practices, that I have a go at it…. alone. This meant saying goodbye to an online spiritual community lead by amazing individuals, with equally amazing members, whom I had come to love and enjoy. So a difficult decision was made.
I’ve learned many things since I was a young child and started making my own spiritual choices. My mother and father weren’t big on organized religion, and although they were Greek Orthodox and Catholic respectively, the furthest they pushed their views on us was in the form of saying the Lord’s prayer and a Hail Mary before bed. I think this had lots to do with my Serbian Grandfather, who died a year before I was born, that witnessed so much devastation due to religious conflict between Muslims and Christians. He never went to Church, as he said it was full of hypocrites and that Church was indeed inside his own heart. He followed his faith, basically on a solo path as well, something I’m just now realizing I have in common with him. This didn’t fly very well with a local priest that refused to say his name at mass unless my grandmother paid him off. Thus my mom felt very comfortable in letting me make my own choices, even when it involved a group of Mormons visiting me when I was 10. I wasn’t baptized until I was 14 and the choice to accept Christ and become a Southern Baptist was entirely my own.
I think one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in the almost 40 years of choices I’ve made, is that your spiritual path is unique and relative to your existence. Which in very simple terms means it’s perfect for you and no one else. I think that’s largely where so much of the conflict arises with religion, as you want to share the amazing experience you’ve had with others which most definitely has to feel better than their own. Sometimes this is actually true, but mostly it’s not and it leaves both parties feeling angry and hurt. Many times the teachings of an entire faith seek to be dismissed, no matter how accurate or helpful they may be. As you can tell by my opening reference within this post, this is not the way I live my life. Of course, fear and religion are often mixed together in order to control the masses, and sadly this happens even to this day. But the part of a spiritual path being so specific to a single individual is all too often overlooked. Even in the most liberal of communities and belief systems, there will always be someone present that will attempt to invalidate your experience because they are an expert, through no fault of their own. And that’s when I have a huge problem accepting and fitting in.
“…a spiritual journey requires… staying humble and not being afraid to admit you don’t know all the answers.”
Spiritual guidance is of course extremely important to many, and I wouldn’t want to discourage anyone from seeking as it were, to try and find a group of loving people that share your beliefs. However, I think it’s immensely important to always remember who you are in these communities, and not to take anything as fact just because someone says it. Take what resonates and walk away from everything else. Spirituality should be a lot like a good therapist… it should guide you to find your own answers, not spoon feed them to you. This point continues to be made clear to me by a statement made by his Holiness, The Dalai Lama, whom I’m had the honor of seeing speak at Florida International University in 1999. In his opening statement he said with much laughter from the audience, “I don’t know what the meaning of life is… if you do, please let me know because I’m still searching for it.” Indeed an enlightened individual stating the obvious… no one is an expert when it comes to such things. These words seem to pop into my head whenever I feel utterly confused about anything, and I’m extremely grateful for it. Perhaps his response is the greatest indicator of what a spiritual journey requires… staying humble and not being afraid to admit you don’t know all the answers.
So that’s about it. I’ve packed up most of my angel cards and I’ve tucked them away in a safe place. I’m spending more time with the physical beauty that surrounds us all, and noticing it where it was previously overlooked. I still enjoy the connection of reading for myself, but only because it puts me in touch with my inner being and who I am. I don’t have to worry about the advice I give because it’s my own. My answers, my questions, my situations, my life… my journey. I’m still exploring the Universe, although with a very open mind and even a deeper connection to what some call God, Source or (insert your deity here). I’m still asking questions, seeking and sharing… and the experience is completely perfect in every way.
Just this morning I experienced a huge epiphany and I had to share. I was having a conversation among fellow spiritualists and one of them, David Hanzel, a psychic medium, made the comment that we are special and magical no matter who we are. David went on to say that it didn’t matter if you were a galactic princess or a plumber, that everyone had the power to change the world. While we’ve all heard this type of grounding motivation before, today these words brought a new awareness to me. I’ve always believed them in theory, but this morning I actually saw and felt the potential behind them. It’s difficult to describe but I’ll give it my best shot.
For starters, power, as we know it, is basically an illusion. As humans we like authority figures because it comforts us and provides a sense of security. Since the beginning of our hominid existence we have looked to healers, wise men, village chiefs, tribal leaders and political figures for guidance and authority. While those figures help shape our society and we need them, the actual power they possess is no different than anyone else alive because in reality, they are a part of the same bigger plan as all of us. They are playing a role, just as important as yours, to get our collective species / consciousness to a certain place in time and space. Yes, this is waaaay metaphysical and philosophical but at the same time, perfect in its design.
It’s been a while since I last cleaned out my vibrational closet, let’s see… what could possibly be in there? Oh yes, how could I’ve forgotten… that FaceBook post I wrote in August, I’m sure it’s still pissing off at least three or four people a day. Oh wow and look at that, a Yelp! review that will forever tarnish the reputation of a server I had at that new restaurant in town. Perhaps they were having a really bad day, but now the internet makes it easier than ever to reproduce that horrible experience like a karmic photo copier… over and over. Thinking about this might make you smile with satisfaction and rub your hands together like an evil villain in the original Batman TV series, or it just might make you realize that your actions are putting out bad vibrations over and over… that far outweigh any inconvenience or bitter cappuccino. Are you really making the world a better place? Or are you polluting the Universe with negative energy that will eventually find its way back to you? My bet is on the latter, which is why I’ve decided to clean out my vibrational closet as part of my New Years resolutions.
As a child I would often wonder with my limited view of the world, why bad things seemed to happen to really good people. My mom would often respond with the famous phrase “God works in mysterious ways” and then she would go about her business like nothing happened. This actually worked for me until I got older and learned to identify that as the biggest excuse ever for not saying “I don’t know, it seems kind of fucked up doesn’t it?” I mean it would make perfect sense that if there was a God, then he’d step in like a giant super hero and save us all. Organized religions have capitalized on this though, so if bad things are happening to you, it must mean you’re a sinner and have angered God. In some faiths, bad things happen to you because you did something bad to someone else and so you’re paying back spiritual debt or as it’s commonly referred to, karma. But what if God has nothing to do it and there’s a reason why these things happen… what if it’s you?
There are many days when life just seems too much to bare, when everything seems like it’s working against you and you’re barely making it. It’s during these trying times when observing the things in your life that are actually working is most important. You might be thinking “nothing is working right in my life right now, that’s exactly the problem!” However truth be told, if you’re reading this then your eye sight is still functioning and you have access to an electronic device, whether it be a computer or hand held, and that’s something that’s working. Turns out, if you take the time to take inventory all the good things, however small, you’ll discover there’s much to be thankful for. And that’s what’s called “A Book of Gratitude.”
Like many things on my spiritual journey, I didn’t realize a book of gratitude was actually a thing until I started to make one. I called it my “book of light” and it was a way of cheering myself up when things in my life weren’t going so great. It gave me permission to express my wishes and desires, but also provided a place to document everything that was actually going great for me. I sat by myself and really thought hard about everything… the smallest detail…that was “working.” I could see, hear, taste and touch, I could feel emotion, I had some food in the fridge, I had some way cool gel pens, I slept on a pillow last night, I had shelter… I wasn’t going to pass up anything. I figured it was more than fair since when we’re upset about things, we tend to make mountains out of molehills. So I did the same, but in the opposite direction and this was actually real… and tangible.
Cooking for someone is probably one of the most spritual and fundamental things you can do in a relationship. That warm and fuzzy feeling you get when enjoying a meal together prepared at home probably has some serious anthropological roots. Thousands of years ago ,when we existed as hunters and gatherers, we brought back our kill to the family or tribe and took pleasure in the consumption of an animal which would sustain us nutritionally and even possibly clothe us. Every part of the animal was utilized for our sustained existence and so it’s no wonder that sharing a meal with someone you care for, references some pretty ancient behaviors and feels pretty darn good.
Astrology is the practice of observing the movements and positions of celestial bodies and making predictions based on this information. For example, a new king will be born and a new era will begin when this star appears in the East. Sound familiar? Heaven forbid you actually practice the very art form that foretold the coming of Christ. They just needed astrologers for the story and then they were all stoned to death I’m sure.
The level of hypocrisy I’m seeing with organized religion is astounding and it’s only getting worse. Common decency and morals are thrown out the window when convenient, sexual predators are adored with a cult like following and serious crimes are dealt with internally and not referred to law enforcement.
Within its own construct, religion itself can’t even come to a conclusion. There are over 800 versions of the Christian bible in English alone! Does anyone remember the violence and discrimination in Ireland between Catholics and Protestants? Seriously? Their small differences in beliefs, although for the same God, were enough to justify murder. Once again, all morals go out the window when it’s convenient.
Last weekend I made myself a really nice grass fed steak dinner and then sat down with a bottle of wine to watch a movie. I would normally do this with my partner Eric, but since he was working on Saturday I resorted back to a ritual coined in HBO’s Sex and The City as “secret single behavior.” This is a practice you perform over and over again when no one is around, and cooking myself a really nice dinner is one of those things I love doing… even when alone. I was really in the mood for the something British, as I often am, and while scrolling through NetFlix I discovered a film called “The Duchess.” Starring Keira Knightly, this movie chronicles the marriage of Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, to her husband William Cavendish, the 5th Duke of Devonshire. Early in the film, the Duchess states during a dinner party “One is either free or one is not, the concept of freedom is an absolute.” This in response to a statement made by one of the Duke’s guests. It got me thinking… and it’s still working its magic on me days later.