(this is my response to a question from a friend from high school who recently got in touch on facebook, who asked, “So, I’m curious to know how you are. You were a very conservative and religious young lady when we were together – are you still? Tell me more about mb and what she has come to be today!”
i have not been avoiding your “who is mb today” question…. but it has taken me a while to formulate my response. especially with respect to religion, which you are obviously picking up on a “different” me these days…. i am laughing at myself here, i actually tried to “take notes” on how i would answer this, and there are so many lines and arrows and scribbles it is kind of intimidating to sort it out into words. hold on, this might be long.
as you mentioned, i used to be quite born again, fundamentalist, etc. i think it’s hard to write out where i am now and how i got here because of how drastically far away from that i feel now. hard to go back and relate to my old self. interestingly, life is throwing me some interesting lessons currently, like a new friend who i swear could be me if i had never changed my mind about some things… talk about relating to the old me. and it’s really making me work hard to articulate what i believe NOW and why, just like this message. ha. i guess that is what the universe has in store for me right now.
so, i’m taking on the challenge…
1996 went off to college, still pretty much the same girl you knew. determined my faith would not be swayed by life out there in the big world. kinda makes me chuckle to think of that. oh, the pendulum has swung.
1998 went on semester at sea, sailed to exotic islands with crazy fun-loving people, met so many people and saw so many places… really started realizing that the concept of the world i had been handed did not really “work” across the board. examples- became friends with a gay guy, such a nice person. realized i was raised to have no respect for this person, and to view his whole entire existence as “sinful”. it really did not sit well with me. really struggled with the idea that i wanted to be an accepting person, of all people and all their freakish ways, and that the way i was raised did not have that inclusivity. wasn’t sure how to make it all fit…. realized that i had a lot of trouble back in grade/high school with being so judgmental of other people, made it hard to make friends… as you know, i did have friends, but i think i also alienated a lot of people with religion. didn’t want to be this way anymore… i had made some very good friends at school, none of whom were christians, and i just needed a new way of thinking about the whole darn thing. i also really saw so much of the world and nature, and also terrible crimes against nature (islands in the caribbean littered for miles with garbage washed up from probably the US, etc.) i was realizing that i didn’t align well with some of the “man’s dominion over nature” aspects of christianity (or at least some interpretations).
1999 met mike, who i ended up in a fairly long term relationship with, he had a different view of things than i did, but i sure loved him and sometimes i could kind of understand the points he was making about religion, how that is a different thing than spirituality. that distinction helped me a lot. i think at that time, though, i was still looking for someone who felt more drawn to christianity, and we had a hard time meeting in the middle somewhere on that topic. he was a poet/artist and VERY articulate, and me, not so articulate. both very stubborn, all of that got in the way of me being open to new ideas. but i still think he helped me start to open up my mind a bit, even though i don’t think i took it very far at the time. example- he talked a lot about his own concepts of religion having been developed reading a lot of joseph campbell, and i seriously had issues with campbell from a philosophy class i had taken in college- of course, i had issues because he did not believe christianity was the be all end all, and i did not realize how close minded i was about it, until later. now i am a huge fan of campbell.
2000 met a new friend jim, who asked me point blank if i was a feminist, and when i said no, challenged me to look into that, and when i did, i realized i actually am very much a feminist. but was afraid of the negative reputation. from then on, i admitted to being a feminist with pride. usually when nobody is asking me, ha.
2001 mike and i went separate ways, i moved to berkeley, was working in a lab and was fairly lonely, so i started attending a presbyterian church near my home there. it was a SUPER-liberal church, i found out once i started attending, and it really was nice to realize that the general vibe there aligned really well with where i was at at that time, both with spirituality and politics. (still wanting religion/christianity, but not feeling comfortable with a lot of the things done in the name of religion….to women, homosexuals, other nations, the environment) that was an inclusive church- welcomed LGBT clergy, etc. that fit well for me. i took a really cool class there on evolution and it was cool to find a way to value both science and religion and not have to find them mutually exclusive since i valued both ways of viewing the world… i also got to travel to an apache native american reservation with the youth group there (as an “advisor”) and while that was an amazing trip, it also stirred up some more confusion for me- it was labeled a “mission trip” and i had been having issues with the way christians assume their religion is for everyone. we were not really doing any preaching or anything just doing humanitarian work, but i wished it had not been called a “mission”. i spent all my time there, trying to absorb as much of the native american spirituality as i could, trying to look at it more as a reverse mission so to speak. also very misguided, i feel now, but it was the best i could do at the time.
2003 that old friend jim came back into my life, we ended up in a relationship (he is quinn’s dad, fyi), he really expanded my mind on religion and spirituality and lots of things. whereas mike had been really academic about it, and i think i had felt intimidated by his knowledge of the subject, jim was much more layman’s terms about it, and fed it to me in chunks i could actually digest. he broke it down for me that i did not actually have to buy into the concept of sin, for example. that was a biggie. it really freed me to decide, no i do not believe in this concept. wow! you can do that? cool. blows open the whole heaven/hell idea, and makes it much more possible to have a mystic perspective on things. he re-introduced me to joseph campbell, again in more edible bites, he had some interviews of campbell with bill moyers on tape that blew me away and really got me thinking. one of my favorite things is something he quoted from the Indian Rg Veda, “truth is one. the sages speak of it by many names.” and really, the more i looked into things, all the religions all seemed to really be talking about the same thing. i read a great national geographic article around this time about the abrahamic religions, from which i learned a lot of the connections between the various religions, how they are all of the same roots. all stuff i was probably taught in high school but wasn’t paying good enough attention to mr. pilato back in global 1….. 🙂
if you had asked me at that time what i believed, it would have been hard for me to articulate it- and it’s still hard now, but i do feel it is timely that you are asking me this, because it really has been on my mind.
2007 birth of quinn. i really think birth and parenting has had as much to do with forming my belief system than anything else along the way, i think i have grown so much as a person since then, more than i could have guessed. i am sure you can relate. i already had a profound respect for nature (that goes back to my childhood, i’m sure) but something about birth. well, it’s just the most powerful thing in the whole world. as you know. i think it helped me to embrace some more of the feminine sides of spirituality that i had not really looked at fully. (also reject a bit more, the paternalistic side of christianity). in addition, there is something about parenting, that really makes you face your mortality, and makes you really want to do your best, and makes you really want to be able to tell someone (like, say, your child) what you believe and why…. and parenting itself brings up all sorts of things- how i was raised, what things i want to do the same and what things differently, just the concept of a child as an actual little person, that i get to practice all my unconditional love on…. great teacher of patience…… etc. i feel that birth was not just his but also my own. very different from “born again” though.
2008 met a friend who is Buddhist. i continue to learn a lot from her. she taught me the word “mystic” actually. basically a spirituality of the here and now, not living for some eternity i may never see. we chat about this stuff quite a bit, she is very anti-“hero”. we’ve decided we don’t need a savior, if we need saving we’ll save ourselves.
today. i think my current spirituality is sort of a mixed breed. i take what i like of all the different traditions and incorporate it, and i leave out what i don’t like. i am still very attuned to a “higher power” of some sort, but do not attribute to it gender or race or know if it is one or many… i guess i am sort of a nature-goddess-buddhist-taoist-yoga-native american-mother earth-present moment sort of person now. hahaha. if that exists. with a little of the teachings of christ still thrown in, for good measure. he wasn’t a bad guy. (i like the gnostic gospels actually- “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” and so on.) i have a crazy looking altar at home- shells, stones, feathers, goddess pictures. any object i find to be sacred for whatever reason. i try to meditate. i do yoga. i sit by the ocean whenever i can.
to me it is all about unconditional love, acceptance, tuning into the universe, being in the present moment, and being ok with not knowing.