I miss my parents today. I miss them every day, but the last few weeks have had an unusual amount of longing for them. It could be that they have appeared in my dreams in various roles, as have other departed friends and family. It could just be the autumn. According pagan religious traditions, in the autumn the veil between this world and the after world (death?) becomes thinner. One might be able to more clearly "hear" the words of departed loved ones, catch glimpses of dear spirits in our periphery, talk to God or the gods, as the case may be. Maybe that is why I am missing them- because I can catch something of their essence near me but can't be with them.
Logically it all makes sense that a religious tradition that is based on the rhythms of the earth would have such beliefs. Look around. The bounty of summer is coming to a close. The killing frost will turn the flowers and leaves of our annual garden plants black. Perennial garden plants die back to the ground saving energy in their roots. Deciduous trees begin to drop their leaves in preparation for the long sleep. The veil thins to allow easy passage around the circle into death. This circle, the cycle in and out of life, into death and back into life, is what I rely on to get me through winter. Like the trees, my mind sort of goes to sleep in a seasonal depression every year. I just need to trust that the spring will come.
For a person who is not religious, I spend a fair amount of time pondering religion and the spirit. I steer clear of religion because of the divisiveness of it all. My god is better than your god. My sin is less than your sin. My love is better than your love. My celestial underpants (Mormon- for real) are better than your big granny underpants (Lutheran)... and so on. So many heinous behaviors are done wrapped in the cloak of religion. Yet, according to what I understand of religion, the god they claim to follow would/should be horrified by what is done in his/her name.
I think it is fine if people choose to be religious. Most people long to be a part of a community of like minded people. We just do. Social is survival. Its a part of what makes our species successful. But I question why these communities have to be separate and superior to one another based on ideology that is often more debatable nuance than actual difference in core belief. It's that kind of thinking that drives me away, but often leaves me just slightly outside of having a strong sense of community in my life.
That is not to say that I feel alone. Far from it. I have family and friends aplenty. I have a strong sense and belief that we are all connected by something. By what I'm not completely sure, but for me there is an undeniable connection between all living things. I feel it in my body. I can stand in a sea of people and feel it- a shared common humanness. I can look into the eyes of my dogs and see it. I can nurture a plant from spring to fall and sense that the energy and care I put into helping that plant thrive has bonded me to it in some way based on the exchange of care. I give the plant care. It blooms and surrounds me with beauty. I don't think that connection is god with a capital G necessarily. I'm not sure. But, I do think that at the very minimum we are bound together by a collective will to first survive. Plants that are sick will still shoot up a few leaves in an effort to heal. The human brain in it's most lizard like simplicity will keep the heart beating and lungs breathing while other failing organs send out poison to bring an end to the body.
At the beginning of last month, a former friend of mine killed herself after struggling many years with depression. We had a falling out many years ago and I only learned of her death through a mutual but distant friend. Strangely, even though we hadn't communicated or laid eyes on one another in over 10 years, her suicide has haunted me a bit since then. I'm sad for her. I'm angry at her. I'm have compassion for her. I think what she did was cruel to her partner. Suicide is just so taboo. It challenges our sense of the basic level of our connectedness- the instinct to survive. I think that is part of what makes the act seem so violent, so uncomfortable, so confusing, so infuriating. I saw my mother fight with all her being to rid her body of leukemia, to extend her life. I've seen many friends with AIDS fight until their bodies gave out. So this business of choosing one's out is deeply complex for me- a moment of grave illness of another sort, another kind of "giving out" perhaps?
Maybe my former friend will come to me in a dream, forgiven and forgiving, and explain this to me. Maybe she will come and tell me that I have to figure this out myself, or that it is none of my damn business. Not knowing her, or particularly liking her, for 10+ years sort of puts it in to that realm a bit doesn't it? In the mean time, I'll accept the slide into darkness that happens every year, experience the comfort of memories of friends that are no longer here, and trust that the sun will come back starting on the winter solstice, that the days will get longer and that I'll get easier to live with starting around March or so.