The Day My Life Changed Forever – 3

orchid - JonSullivan

I haven’t considered myself religious for over 30 years now.  It’s not that I have anything against Christianity (or religion); I just feel guilty calling myself a Christian and not believe in a God, Heaven, the hereafter, and all that other ‘leap-of-faith’ logic.

That’s not to say I’m not spiritual.  I believe on some level that there is a spiritual connection to can make with others – and I believe it happens all the time.  It comes from the energy each one of us put out to the world.  We are, scientifically, all bit of energy vibrating at different speeds to form various types of mass and structure.  So I therefore believe there could be something to it – and I can feel it from people.

But for the most part, I stopped believing in a lot of things a long time ago.  It’s just that religion had a good hold of me (school, social, punishment), and for the most part, it got me through some tough times. (I invite you to have a compelling look at one of those times here: Benni’s Dirty Secret.)  It was sort of like therapy with a twist; and for the most part, it worked.  That’s why I stuck around – and I have much to thank for the many individuals who entered my life in those times.

***

If I were to give myself a label, I would say I live my life today as an Existential Humanist.  This describes the kind of relationship I have with the world as I live it every moment.  As such, it serves and allows me:

  • To express my observations and perceptions of how I experience life as it occurs, and
  • To express my feelings and actions towards actions.

As an Existentialist, I am able to exercise my logical side of thinking.  I can see how the world operates without the noise of drama, stories, miscommunication, crisis, and all the other distractions created by humankind to interrupt our progress of human understanding.

As a Humanist, there is nothing I appreciate more than being in the company of others who are chasing dreams that improve theirs and the lives of others.  Not in a socialist sense; rather, I appreciate environments where EVERYONE is truly equal and compassionate about life and living.

I understand the Human Condition.  I know the how-to’s, where-for’s, and what-not’s about how we operate in life.  And while I can see how knowing this stuff can be beneficial to some; this is only part of the equation of experiencing human potential.  The other half is UNDERSTANDING.  That’s the plane of life where I exist with all my relationships – human or otherwise.  It is quite exciting, actually.

My life occurs in the little things that make up our day.  For example, when I go to the office to do my writing and work for the day (the local Tim Hortons coffee shop), I am greeted by some familiar faces I see every day.  Reasons are found to talk to each other.  I find the joy in holding the door for someone, and others often do likewise.  Friendly nods of respect are cast to solitary individuals, and infant/toddlers always laugh and smile when we interact.  It’s a good feeling to feel welcome.

***

I guess it would make sense that I would evolve to be such a person.  I suppose my early lessons to see life with the drama, deceptions, and manipulations molded me and the logical-thinking side of my personality.  As for the emotional side of me, I see now how I was emotionally immature (and distorted). Yet, I was living a life of service to others.  My 30+ years of volunteering, and the years of working in service-related industries (health, social service, military service, neighbourhood groups and agencies, etc.) provide evidence of my subconscious decision to help others.  What is surprising to me though, is that I’ve done a lot in my life – and all along (for over 30 years), I was living with Mental Health issues and didn’t even know it.

***

 But it was on that night that everything started brand new for me.  All that outer space stuff.

Here I was, instead of celebrating the possibility that I could become an astronaut like most other boys my age, I was having a philosophical crisis that was about to change my life (for the first time).

I suppose it was the last straw.  And I suppose it was natural for me to cry.  After all, I saw the last bastion of Trust and Understanding disappears from under me and there was nothing left on which to rely.  The well of my life had run dry.

Needless to say, I have issues with Trust to this day.  I’ve studied it to death and have developed a keen knowledge and understanding of it’s implications on our lives.  For example, there is so little trust in the world, we have laws, contracts, rules, wars, guidelines, tests, governments, and all those other tools to keep us all honest.  I’m not different from much others in this respect.

I did learn these 3 things about trust over my travels:

  1. Trust is NOT earned, it is only granted.
    Trust is ours to lose.  We have to give trust to others or nothing much would get done.  We understand there is not much trust in the world.
  2. Trust can only be expressed through action.
    It doesn’t matter how much you tell someone you are trustworthy, nobody will believe it until they actually experience it.  This can only be done through performance.
  3. Trust is driven by our personal level of fear.
    We all come from different backgrounds, so we are all different in our approach to life.  As life is driven primarily by fear (everyone), then it is easy to find someone’s level of trust.

Because of this experience, I (unknowingly) decided to invest time in my life journey for something to believe in – without success, over the years.  I have a trail of evidence littering my life experiences growing ip where I trusted others (within the standards of social mores) and got burned – sometimes badly.  For example, a recent business venture a few years back involved having a retired religious Minister as a partner.  He got an honourable doctorate, was elected a bishop, and honoured for a life’s work in central America helping the poor.  When everything is said and done, after I invested time and money into the operation, he disappears.  I find out he decided he wanted to get involved in a multi-level marketing (MLM) business instead.  I never had an opportunity to talk to him about it because I’ve never seen him again.  Incredible luck, huh?

I’ve learned not to take things personally anymore because I realize I am not life’s only victim.  I am one of many before and after me.  From this practice, I come to have more compassion for people and more derision for institutions or large bodies of businesses who benefit unfairly from the people they serve.  I am an active advocate for others when I see an immoral or unethical event taking place.

In that night of profound awakening and awareness, it seems incredible that the emotional crisis of a little boy would have such an impact that would shape and mould the direction of one’s life.  Yet, I can attest (through my background and accomplishments) that life never did occur the same again.

Whether an unconscious or subconscious decision, I decided to find out why people do what they do.  And after 40+ years of personal inquiry (remember, I am a Whyz-Guy) and experiences of much sacrifice, I did come to some personal beliefs about people and life:

  1. We all live in Fear,

  2. We are socially conditioned from our influences in life to behave the way we do, and

  3. We are only being the only way we know how.

Not bad for something started by a lonely 10 year old, huh?

Just think, I could have instead started down the road of resignation, crime, confusion, and death a long time ago.  I had my moments, but I am still here; and I am not going to give up on life.

Thank you readers for allowing me these last 3 days to share this with you.  I’ve been wanting to do this for years (but I had nobody to tell).  The fall of another wall – the cleansing of essence – the joy of it all.

Namaste

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The Day My Life Changed Forever – 2

Every dark cloud has a silver lining! :)At such a young age, I never considered the existence of out space to be bigger than the universe God created for us.  Man hadn’t landed on the moon yet, so what little I knew were the space walks and John Glenn.  To think space went on and on forever … well, I suddenly felt so small and meaningless.

So, in the darkness and alone, when I learned that our galaxy was one of a uncountable number – I just about died right on the spot.  (You remember last post about the world stopping?)  Given this information was not on TV (where I knew it was mostly fake) and in found in a library book, I had to consider it true.  That was the first blow to my min and difficult for me to understand – and I was confused as heck.

Then I thought … why is science, history, and religion so different?  It seems like we are supposed to believe – but what?  How am I supposed to know what is true?  Another slap in the head with another thought … if religion is true, why is there less proof?  Why do so many believe?  How is it justified?

As you can see, I had a fertile mind (and still do).  I loved understanding things and how it all fits together.  My mother came to have a habit of saying: “You will be a jack of all trades and a master of nothing.”  I was/am in awe of everything. (And she was right, I guess.)

And then to top it off – I panicked.  Then I started thinking things like: Now I’ve been duped by everyone.  Everyone is in on a conspiracy.  Is there something I don’t know yet?  What am I supposed to do and believe?  This is where I am practically wailing (silently) in the cold attic.

All of my pain and agony started to come back.  I put a lot of trust in religion.  I invested all my hope in it.  Now how do I approach religion and my spirituality?  I felt my greatest growth and development as a person through experiences that began from a religious source.  Now this astronomy thing …

***

I already had many traumatic experiences up to that point in my life (for example – I vividly remember being up close and intimate with the psychotic murder of a family next door as it happened).

Scared as heck, I tried to fit in as “normally” as possible, i.e. “not be seen or heard”.  I did what I was told; did it without question; and did it to the best of my ability.  My father conditioned us very well – we were all little child soldiers ready (and fearful) at his calling.  I did it out of safety, a sense of belonging, and for acknowledgement. (I got none!)

Then I found religion; and upon discovering everything it stood for (to a child in distress) – I thought I hit the jackpot!  It had all the answers to everything that was wrong in my world:

  • Patience, forgiveness, unconditional love, corporal punishment, sacrifice, reward of paradise, threat of eternal damnation, and much, much more.
  • It helped put my pain and suffering (and to my siblings) in a palatable acceptance of life

The biggest thing I noticed the religion I was born into did to people is what I witnessed as a power of belief and the changes it made to them.

Heck, for years, my father was transformed for 2 hours every Sunday morning for years as he proudly towed along his 8 kids to church.  He even walked differently (with attitude)!  When I caught an understanding of this a few years earlier, I knew there had to be something to being religious.

So, I remember thinking to myself that if I wanted any happiness in this world of plenty, then religion was the way to go.  By that time, I was attending St. Michael’s Choir School in Toronto, Canada.  I had the scholarship and the musical talents (piano/voice); and from that, religion wrapped me in a spiritual blanket.  My inspiration was fueled with thoughts of hope, faith, humility, and service – all of which brought me great joy in those years, and they set another layer to my personal foundation.

Yes, I learned forgiveness, albeit the difficult way; and I still gained valuable lessons about people and myself.  I still benefit greatly every day from these lessons learned.

A small confession:

Being a realist at the time (in hindsight, a budding Existentialist), I always felt the Bible wasn’t something to be literally believed.  I understood clearly they were stories written down to teach us things.  When I saw people expressing their 100% devotion to the faith, I didn’t understand how that could be so.  But one thing for sure: I DID believe in Heaven an Hell – and now this astronomy.

I realize now that I was questioning the trust I put in Christianity.  I trusted every other authority figure I met; and the level of trust had eroded to the point where I thought – at least in this case – that I didn’t believe enough.  I thought I could do better, or look for more suffering, or put myself down and then I will be happy.  And don’t get me wrong.  I had a great many spiritual experiences with people over the years hence.  But …

***

According to my plan, everything was going along great at this point.  I learned to avoid my father’s wrath, I kept up my school marks, and I practiced the piano every day (the Conservatory was expensive!).  Oh yeah – I prayed a lot too. Didn’t seem to make much difference though.

I’m sure you can understand how my life could change with this new knowledge.  And I realize I was just a kid, but my thoughts grew with the expectations set upon me from all the adults in my life.  All I know and remember from almost 50 years ago is that it was a common occurrence for the adults to have a plan for me and not tell me about it.

In a great lesson from that, I learned about Fear.  I guess that’s why I have no issues with experimenting, discovering, change, creativity, expression, performance, and all the other great things about living life.

***

As you can see, my world was rocked.  In a matter of about 2 hours one evening in the fall, I had (and wasn’t aware of it, btw) a personal experience that set in motion a path for a journey that would have me take on life with an unquenchable desire to understand the world.

(tomorrow – final part: How the next 40 years turned out …)