3.01.2009

Living Ethics: Tracing it Back to When it Began

Lost in thought, trying to solidify the ideas floating in my head about my next blog post, hanging my freshly laundered clothes in the closet, I stepped back and landed a heel right on my German Shepherd's foot. Not wanting to put my full weight on the poor dog's foot, I tried to catch my balance by stepping back with the other foot, which landed on the dog's other foot. Still thinking of the poor dog's feet, I fell forward and jammed a thumb on the closet door, breaking the fingernail past the quick. As the throbbing subsided, new sensations of never before exposed skin took over. There it was, the one thing that would tie all my various thoughts together in one unifying theme: Confusion.

I realized that there were more than a few things I just don't understand. Big things, little things, things that confused me. This is good to articulate, and helps me to understand why it is that I had not been able to settle on a focus or point from which to discuss my ideas. Yes, it's confusion, and that is the point, the focus. Confusion. Contradictions. Cognitive dissonance. Leaps of faith as springboards to the confusion, contradictions and cognitive dissonance.

When I was young, I would head outside and wander through fields and woods and climb up the mountain, following the power lines. That swath cut through the forest emphasized the terrain almost like the rumpled blanket on my bed with its peaks and crevasses. I would feel the breeze on my cheeks, cooling the sun's warmth, feel my hair blow back as though running while feeling the stones and dirt under my bare feet as I stood still. Even at a young age, I felt life, all of it alive all around me. This life was in harsh, stark contrast to the priest in Sunday masses insisting that we are, all of us, born sinners. Was it a sin to feel life? That was the only thing I knew of that no one else had ever mentioned, so I deduced no one else had ever done. I had no way of knowing if it was right or wrong, so I never mentioned it. A kid with a mother like mine learns early on not to do wrong or risk another whipping, so I kept it to myself, just in case it was wrong. Yes, for awhile, I wondered if it was a sin to feel, to become one with life.

Looking down from the organ loft onto the tops of the heads of my fellow parishioners, I could see them nod their heads in agreement. They agreed with the priest that they were sinners, and I could imagine all the horrible things they all had done. They must've all hit people, yelled at them, angered about one slight or another, cheated or stole, never smiled, never hugged their children, ate meat on Friday, or, heaven forbid, they had sex without being married. Those were the things I knew were wrong, some to be recategorized later in life. To me, it was a sin that all the women there felt that going to church on Sunday was an excuse to wear all of the perfume they owned. There is no doubt that it is wrong when you do something that causes someone else misery, and that perfume made me deathly sick every Sunday.

That was my thinking back then, and it hasn't changed much now. It is wrong when you do something that causes someone else pain and misery. It is your choice, your responsibility, your thinking that is behind that wrongdoing. There is no one and nothing else behind your wrongdoing but you.

Ah, you say, "but the Devil made me do it." Think about that too. The first and about the only place I ever heard any mention of a Devil was in church! That's the same place I was told I was born a sinner. Countless Sundays watching those heads nod away, and not a bit of it had a ring of truth to it. Isn't it wrong to lie? You all may be sinners, but I'm not! I can feel life! I can feel my heart about to explode with the joy of watching a bird fly against the wind. I can touch the cheek of a dog and see the comfort reflected in its eyes that is beautiful. I can look at a newborn baby and know without doubt, know deep in my heart that there is no wrong, no sin there!

The exposed skin under the broken thumbnail is an allegory for the head in the sand, hidden from life, sheltered from truth. Slow the thinking down long enough to grab on and follow it through. Find the grave contradictions and refuse to take those huge, unfathomable leaps of faith. The truth is never confusing.

Sorry, Padre. I am no sinner. I love life, and it is no sin. It is a sin that so many people believe that they are sinners.

8 comments:

  1. The biblical definition of sin means to miss the mark.

    Paul

    Eat Well. Live Well.
    PurpleGreenPops.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. Kel (Eric S.'s elder sister)3/01/2009 3:54 PM

    Well thought out and well written. I had similar reactions to being told over and over that I was a sinner, but I had to spend far too many years in obstinate anger over it before I found my way to a more positive place.

    But even when quite young I suspected that "the devil made me do it," was only an excuse for the weak willed to use when wrongful desires overpowered their ethical conscience.

    ReplyDelete
  3. @ Paul - Interesting definition. I'm not sure it's much of a consolation to be an incompetent blurb instead of evil.

    @ Kel - Welcome! Please leave your blog address next time; I'd like to visit! I agree with you about the weak willed, and have to wonder just how developed their consciences are since it's just a matter of following and doing what all the other sheep do...

    ReplyDelete
  4. Over the years I have come to many conclusions and have decided that everyone has a perfect soul and it is united as one and knows nothing of sin. As far as this reality we find our collective ego self in, is this really real and are we really capable of judging another human as a sinner? If someone believes someone else is a sinner then he is judging himself along with the sinner and also leaves himself no way for salvation, just my thought.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I have often wondered why church, where we are to find comfort, can sometimes give us just the opposite. When I was growing up, most sermons consisted of "hell and damnation," "fire and brimstone", "repeat you sinners". It scared me and I felt God was watching my every move, ready to send down the thunder bolt that would kill me and send me to Hell. I was well into adulthood before I could wrap my mind around the concept of God's grace and even now...sometimes...I wonder if I am good enough.

    ReplyDelete
  6. You stopped me in my tracks: you have written what I have felt for the last 20 years. although not only was I told I was sinner, but that it was why I was disabled. When I said I was born disabled, the sin must have been my parents', or some dead ancestor because sins are passed down the generations. Then I was someone God wanted to heal, until the prayers didn't work and then it was my lack of faith.. and so on ad infinitum

    I couldn't work out why God would allow me to be disabled just so some people a few years later could practise on me. It seems a bit mean really; and if we're all made in God's image, why is being disabled such a bad thing? And if God knows us when we're in our mother's womb (where my disability began), then why am I trying to change what God made me?

    It's almost 20 years since I was in a church, and still I can feel the effects. What is worse about it all is that, at that time, I believed all those things of myself and other people. I remember haranguing my mum about going to hell because she didn't believe, and she turned round and said, "Well, if heaven's full of people like you, I don't want to go there!"

    I think that was my eureka moment.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Based on what you all have said, I see that I am not alone in my assessment of today's interpretation of what may be generally accepted across a few religions.

    For one thing, I cannot fathom a mother telling her daughter that she has no wish to be where "people like you" are. That blows my mind!

    I will be discussing more generally accepted ideas as I build on Living Ethics. I hope you'll join me.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Excellent post. So many of us have been crippled by organized religion, and it's still going on today. I have always failed to correlate the teachings of Jesus with the mindsets and actions of the "Christians" I've run across that go to church every Sunday.

    As a matter of fact, I used to be amazed at exiting the parking lot of said church and listening to my Catholic MIL calling everyone in her way "sonsabitches" and worse. Because *they were in her way*. Yeah. Like Jesus, right?

    ReplyDelete