I’ve been thinking a lot about what I believe in. Faith is not a decision. I think it’s whatever guides you in your secret corners and what you feel when you are either terrified or enamored or content. I was raised Catholic-Catholic School until 8th grade. I studied Judaism, Islam, and Christianity in college and studied Taoism and Buddhism on my own when a while after the break down. My sister and I were talking about our dad’s death and how we find comfort in it. She said she will see him in heaven. I was kind of surprised at that thinking. I guess because a large part of me felt the scary roots of existentialism when I went mad.
I know two things about myself.
I’ve dreamt (is it dreamed or dreamt?) about a hand with an eye on it since I was a teen-never knew what it was or why. Dreamt about it again before my first break down in my twenties, and then again as I healed. So I looked it up.
Hamsa. The Hand of Fatima. The protection from the evil eye. The hand with the eye in it is a symbol throughout many religions (including Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism and Jainism). This just fascinates me. It is very much a feminine symbol.
The other thing I know is that when I was in a bad state, maybe several months after getting out of the bin, I hadn’t written in years. And I woke up one night and wrote a poem to Jesus Christ. And I cried and felt something–like gratitude. I knew I was going to make it, and that I wasn’t alone. In the hospital I saw something vast and empty–a godless world. It was horrifying. HORRIFYING. I realized my idea of faith had been utterly shattered. For awhile…
My mother has been asking me to go to Adorations at church Monday mornings. I won’t go for one reason–the few times I have gone to mass I do everything I can in there to keep it together and not cry. And it’s tears of love and home and survival. Surviving–how do we do it?
My daughter told me she didn’t think she had courage. I added to a letter I am saving for her for her 21st birthday what I feel about courage:
“You told me you didn’t think you were courageous. But Emma, you won’t know your own strength until it is called on. You will surprise yourself. Strength doesn’t require a good past or a bad past. It requires how much you love yourself, how much you want to survive the obstacle. A passion to endure.”
I do believe every religion and faith centers around the same concept. You have to look past all the crap that has been muddying it. The point of them is the same. It’s also like science. Religion and science are brother and sister in my opinion. But what is it you settle down with at night?
I see my faith in the way early spring morning walks smell, and lilacs that take me back to when I was five, before damage occurred. I see it in my daughter and how I love her and in turn, love myself. I see it the prophets I recognize. I see it in the long winding up and down crazy psychotic loving path between my mother and I. I hear it in my grandmother’s voice I can still hear even though she is gone. I see it in the depth of the hell I was in–the dark is the light, the light is the dark. Everywhere there are openings and answers without words. The point is to face every fear, every passion, every question, every desire, everything within us, because we are human and to deny all of ourselves is a good way to stay trapped.
4 thoughts on “What Do You Believe In”
quite an interesting perspective. yes, it is our choice to choose to survive, to comfront and press on or to give up. neither has anything to do with strength or weakness, just a choice.
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Very good perspective on this.
For poets, these meditations are such difficult and muddy terrain, for we believe, conceive, know and empathize all in the same poem. The poet is ever Job in the belly of faith’s whale, questioning the tongue, querying the anus. Whaddayagonnado? The great thing about faith (or do I mean poetry??) is that its a road, an ever-changing one: a merciful God forgives what I believed about God when I was 14 (hell fearin’, fundamentalist booze), as well as my excessively devout moments in thrall with Plath, Roethke, Rilke, Stevens, Gilbert et al. Pain is the greatest teacher about faith, and surrender its only enabler: But heck, the next poem might defy all that and deify something. I’ve been in love for some time with the Christianity of the earliest Irish monks (my patron well-saint Oran is one of them), because they’re watered with both God and Manannan. I also love the idea of matins, those first moments of the liturgical day when reading and prayer and poetry are tucked next to the mother of sleep. Plainsong and pentameter. Anyhoo. Keep truckin’, writin’, and keepin’ on with the faith …
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