Reckoning | Three Religions. One Story.

An autobiographical blog series about religious practice, interfaith engagement, and seeking what is True.

Table of Contents

Part I


Introduction

“Is not life from beginning to end a ludicrous story, an improbable, stupid yarn?Am I not now writing my own personal piece of fiction? A story is only an outlet for frustrated aspirations, for aspirations which the storyteller conceives in accordance with a limited stock of spiritual resources inherited from previous generations.” — Sadegh Heayat, The Blind Owl

We have the guaranteed freedom in America to not only define our religious practice, but to define the very nature of ‘god’ for ourselves. Even within a relatively homogenous religious community, each member often has their own version of Truth. Some of us even go so far as to start churches or mosques or synagogues based on our interpretation of whatever holy text we find ourselves attached to. And some reject the notion of god altogether, preferring secular ‘religious’ pursuits.

Presented with unlimited religious and philosophical options in the twenty-first century, I am one of many (perhaps most) Americans who has struggled to understand their own innate spirituality in the context of modernity, Enlightenment values and free, unlimited access to knowledge and information via the Internet.

Over the last forty-eight years, I’ve been both a devout, unquestioning follower of religion; then embraced skepticism to discover infinitely more unanswered questions and unfulfilled needs — only to return to religious life in an entirely new way.

This is a reckoning with religion as it has defined my identity and view of the world for close to half a century. It should go without saying (though certainly not on today’s internet, I suppose) that I am writing from my own limited perspective. There’s no real attempt at universal truth or prescriptive recommendations to be found here. I’m committed to recounting the events of the past and the discoveries I’ve made with as much accuracy and objectivity as I can. Still, even my clearest memories are filtered through age, time and bias. This is how it is for all of us. We select a tiny, self-affirming sliver of The Reality, identify with it and call it truth. And it is truth — but not The Whole Truth.

Some days I feel like I have been alive for centuries and that all the sweet pain of human existence is filling my heart. I can barely stand it. Colors are muted and time slows down and everything in front of me seems like it’s a memory from another lifetime. Other days, I feel like I’ve just witnessed the moment of creation, and all the universe is brand new, open and ready for me to explore. Colors are bright and pierce my eyes and my heart. Possibility exists everywhere, and I see infinity in every face.

I’ve experienced these bittersweet periods many times over the years, but particularly during the times when I’m transitioning into a new way of being. Whenever I find myself in these states— that is when I am most creative. I’m open to the experience of humanness, observing myself along with the rest of the universe. During times like this I am defenseless against my own raw existence. I cannot be angry like this. I can’t be ambitious. I cannot perpetuate whatever egotistical lies I tell myself. I simply am, as I am.

Perhaps the reason we all spend so much time distracting ourselves from what is right in front of us — stoking our own fear and anger to unleash on faceless internet strangers, or pursuing the lifestyle of religious ‘self-improvement’ — is that we hope these things will distract us from our melancholy and the moments of truth that remind us who and what we are, intrinsically.

Unchangeably. Irrevocably. We are human. Only human.

For my part, I love those bittersweet days, even when they cause me psychic and spiritual discomfort. I love knowing that I am one of billions who will melt away into history and be forgotten. That there is a mystery to my existence that is beyond whatever plans I have or work I produce. That each moment I am conscious and living here is mine to experience as a birthright — not as a contract, but as a gift.

As an ideal, America is a rock-tumbler of a society. We chip away at one another through constant, often uncomfortable contact with differences, until we are all more beautiful and polished. In its less ideal form, though, America leaves so much open to individual interpretation that we are now living in what has been widely hailed as a ‘post truth society’ in which there is very little left upon which we can all agree.

I’m not writing my story because I think I will have some great impact on the world with the details of my life. Nor I am not laboring under any delusion that I will prolong the memory of my existence after I am gone from this world. I cannot validate your faith, or lack thereof. This is a reckoning with religion that I’m doing for my own inner peace — and I’ve chosen to share it with the world in this format because after a ruthless inventory of my short time on earth thus far, I am not sure I have much else of value to contribute.

And I do so want to contribute.

My pledge to you, dear reader, is to simply tell my own bit of truth as honestly as possible — fully acknowledging that it is not The Whole Truth. I will tell you what I know and where I’ve been with stark honesty and humble reflection. If you read my story and find nuance in the way you view your fellow Americans, then I’ll have done something useful. If any part of this story resonates with you and whispers awake your own melancholy humanness, I will have done something truly great.


Dedication —

This story in all its imperfect, awkward telling is dedicated to people who long to know The Truth and will accept no substitute. Those who prefer honest ignorance to false knowledge (or partial knowledge). Those who believe that it is their birthright to explore their relationship with the concept of Divinity on their own terms; to ask questions and to remain open to any answer that is true.

This story is dedicated to the people in every faith community who are marginalized — pushed to the edges (or even pushed out) because their families and communities would rather cling to comfortable lies that allow them to continue Not Knowing instead of making space for everyone.

This story is dedicated to those who long to connect with something greater than themselves; who sense a connection to something real and true and powerful but who refuse to define it in gross human terms.

For people who know themselves, and aren’t afraid of mirrors.

For the humble, the hopeful, the loving, the kind.

This is for those of you who want whats best for all of us on this gorgeous mud ball. Who realize how very few of us there are in this section of the universe, and who are willing to sacrifice self-delusion to secure a better future for humankind.

For those who prefer solitude to the sanctimonious comforts of those who are more satisfied by myths and legends that confirm their biases than they are by truths that lead to more questions.

Finally, I dedicate this story to the people who have walked with me, carried me, pushed me and even dragged me along when I sat down by the side of the road to cry about being lost. You know who you are.


Dear reader,

Thank you! I’m honored that you chose to spend your time reading something I wrote. If you’re enjoying yourself reading my story and want to support my endeavor and connect with me — here are some ways:

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