….but we are all fabulous.
I think I am an atheist – I don’t think I believe in God. I can’t be 100% certain of course – how can one know or not know the unknowable… But as I get older, the % increases. I went to Sunday School as a child and church regularly until I was 14/15. The repetition of catechism and ritual associated with church is not dissimilar to techniques used in brainwashing and it is only many years later that I can even think about not believing in God without mentally uttering an apology in case I am wrong, like throwing salt over one shoulder when you spill some.
Religions have evolved for many reasons, some good, some not so good. They explained natural phenomena before we had science, provide comfort in the face of death, reinforce community and provide meaning to life, to name just a few of the more positive reasons. Unfortunately they are often used to control and oppress both at a macro level, but also at a micro level – disapproval of human frailty in the name of religion is abhorrent when it is institutional or your neighbour that is displaying it.
However, religion and faith at their best provide spiritual nourishment and in the absence of a religion or belief in God, whilst science does a great job explaining the physical world, I am conscious of searching for meaning and my place in the universe.
[Incidentally, Stephen Fry and The Humanist Society have produced this great video addressing these issues: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tvz0mmF6NW4.%5D
I went to the Lake District earlier in the week only for a few days, but we spent 3 wonderful days walking in the beautiful scenery and seeing the evidence of the cycle of life with renewal everywhere in the buds and the lambs and the tadpoles. It felt like a contemplative retreat – an opportunity to connect with something greater than myself and to feel part of it. The ‘it’ is nature of course – beautiful and brutal – providing inescapable evidence that life has a beginning and an end. Connecting with it was an act of mindfulness – breathing in and absorbing all the sights and sounds and smells and feelings as they were happening – a direct communion with life.
Nature doesn’t judge you – there are no arbitrary man-made rules to obey. Nature doesn’t care if you worship it or even see it. No one ever went to war over what form nature takes. It is there and you are part of it and it is part of you. Comfort can be found in the inevitability of the cycle of life and the fact that after death comes life again – even if not your own.
It is all too easy to disconnect from nature – I travel to and from work in a car along urban roads, I work in an office and work out in a gym. My food comes from a supermarket, my water comes from a tap both are taken for granted. When I do encounter nature when I run outside or walk somewhere, my mind is usually elsewhere, planning or worrying or rushing. It’s also easy to forget that we are subject to the laws of nature – if we eat more energy than we consume, we gain weight, if we ingest noxious substances we harm our bodies, if we exercise, we build strong bodies.
We seem to ignore the laws of nature and spend increasingly bizarre ways trying to fix the resulting unnatural outcomes: cosmetic surgery to fix the mistakes we’ve made or to try to make our bodies look like someone else’s; vitamin-enhanced food to counteract the fact that we don’t eat a natural diet; asthma inhalors to fix the fact we pollute our own atmosphere. If we could stop cutting the trees down to make the magazines which tell us to be thin rather than fit and strong, our planet and our minds would be healthier.
In the absence of a Sunday church to go to, I need to make more time to connect with nature.