Each of us has our own version of hell. For those of us who like it hot, the traditional fires of that awful place hold no particular horror. I myself figure, the hotter the better, let the mother f-er burn. (Oops, am I allowed to say that on TBV? Oh well, I just did.) Hell, in my particular case, is happening today right on my own back porch. It’s 80 degrees, not a cloud in the sky, and I can’t ride my bike or do any gardening because I fractured my knee. It took me an hour to get myself set up on the porch with the trusty antique laptop, a cooler full of Diet Coke, and my Ipod. Getting up the stairs to the loo is a ten minute task, and since I can’t use my crutches and carry the phone at the same time, I keep missing the calls of well-wishers. To make it even worse, A. is away in Rhode Island teaching a seminar, so there isn’t even anyone here I can whine to. I wish I could say that I fractured my knee doing something cool like mountain biking or playing soccer, but the sad truth is that I slipped on a wet floor at work, and all of 140 lbs of me came crashing down on my forty something year old knee.
There are however some Perks to being in hell, and in this case they are Percs (percocets). If you have to sit around all day with your leg elevated, it’s better to be stoned.
But hey, this post is not really about me, or maybe it is in some way; it's more about Lisa and people like her who are disillusioned with organized religion, facing aging and the inevitable path it will lead you down, and trying to reconnect spiritually.
Okay, this post coming from me, the resident atheist, may not not carry the weight of some religious figure, like say the Pope, but it is a story of real spiritual awakening, not some faith healing, or miracle, but an example of Divine energy and how it is just right here waiting for us to get our heads out of our asses and embrace it.
About a month ago, I took a vacation to Arizona to visit my sisters. We took a drive to Sedona which is a kind of a spiritual place all by itself. We stayed in a hotel looking out at this amazing scene of red rock, we ate a lot, we talked a lot, and we enjoyed the company and the magic that happens whenever we get together. My siblings, all of them, are so essential to me, that I could not exist as a healthy human being without them. All of my sisters and one brother (poor guy) are really different, my family is no less dysfunctional than any other American family, but the bond between us is unbreakable in a way that marriage is not, the love unconditional even though approval is not. But the thing that happens when we are all together, or some of us are together, is something like experiencing God's love, it is almost like a rapture, we don't like fly off to heaven, but the love I feel when we are together feels life affirming and spiritual.
Okay so anyway, me and my sisters Liz and Kathy were in Sedona and having all of that unconditional love around us was like a high that you can't get from chemicals, certainly not Percs, and we walked into this head shop to buy some uhmmm....souvenirs...and the woman behind the counter caught hold of our energy and ran with it. I think it was my sister Liz belting out this old Jackson Browne song, "Take It Easy", and suddenly the Headshop Lady was hooked into our energy, and I found myself holding hands with my sisters and having some sort of prayer circle and all of my atheist doubt squared its shoulders and tried to resist all of the love that was rising up from the circle. But even Tankwoman with all of her superhuman powers of cynicism and sarcasm cannot resist the celebration of love, no matter where it comes from, or what phrases any person might choose to describe it.
You can call it rapture, you can call it a miricle, but real love is a force for greatness in the world, and where you find it might not be in some cold stone building with stone statues of dead people, what the F, are the ghosts of the Saints going to leave Heaven and fly down to save us? The ability to choose to fill our lives with those people who make us feel loved is called free will, that thing that gives us the power to know when God is being hijacked for another agenda, and when God is standing right next to us, is the spiritual compass that we all have within us, that instrument that will bring us closer to God. God is in all of us, god is the thing that makes us love each other, and carry on so that the world will bring us more of that unconditional love that is what some people call heaven.
For Lisa and for me, there is no easy answer, we can't change the minds of millions of Catholics or Christians, but the path to a better world lies in your own heart, not in some different denomination. God is in us all, and when we love each other, the forces of good prevail. When we hate each other, the forces of evil are let loose upon our families and friends.
The best thing about the whole deal is free will, and our ability to decide.