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I have tried to write this particular blog post several times, but always quit after just a few keystrokes.

My father passed away, after a long and good life, a year ago last week. It rattled me. I have spent the past year dedicating some time to really thinking about what my religious beliefs are, even if I really had any. How could I respect science and logic, but yet acknowledge a deep sense of mystery with more than a few personal encounters with the unexplainable?

I have read many books this past year. I have read books on history, art, biographies, astrophysics,  meditation, human evolution, leadership, philosophy, saints and sinners. I have read biblical passages, sacred texts, and poetry. I even joined an online course made up of people of all faiths and no faith. I have stared quietly at mountains, oceans, rivers and streams. I have looked at stars and contemplated the desert. I have sat in solitude on the monastery  grounds of Cistercian monks. I have inhaled my breath slowly for 4 counts and exhaled for 4 counts. No shit, I have really done all of this.

From all this, I have developed a different perspective about God and yet it is a work in progress. However, I realize now that for most of my life I was taught ,and though even rebelliously, I eventually adopted the idea of a very small form of God. I saw God as a Being, when in fact I now believe that God is Being. God as Being is everywhere.

I started noticing this over the past year, wondering why nature often had this awe-inspiringly affect on me. Why did the color of flowers often stop me in my tracks? A few months ago, in an academic setting, I took a group of young adults to a spring at the base of a mountain. The spring grows quickly to a stream and eventually a major river. They all became very quiet and just stared at the water coming out of the mountain. They told me they felt something and with no prodding from me. I wondered why? What did they feel? I felt something too.

This week I got together with two of my oldest friends; we probably met when we were around five years old. We sat next to a large rock, under a tree, and talked, and laughed, and remembered, and quietly thought our thoughts. I felt God there, in those relationships, those precious relationships. So I felt God at the spring and I felt God among old friends.

I have felt Being when I enter Yosemite Valley, or look up at Mount Shasta, or climb along the rocks of Sedona. I now feel Being when the breeze blows across my face or the clouds change shapes. I feel Being when I look into my dogs eyes. I sense Being when I sit under a big oak tree.  When I hear family, friends, laugh … and cry, I feel Being. When a friend sings a song, like Amazing Grace or On My Side of the World, or My Revival, I feel Being.

I feel Being now when I read books about the Big Bang Theory, human evolution, and enlightenment, even in those intellectual endeavors. I feel Being when I have nothing but questions. I have learned you can have faith and questions at the same time. I think Buddhist call it the Beginner’s Mind. I now believe that we were created in the image and very likeness of God, which means God is  both within and without, up and down, here and there and yep, everywhere. I believe life is a gift and death is just invisible life. I believe God loves us. God understands our suffering because God has experienced suffering too. Even when we try to kill God, God says “Forgive them, they know not what they do.”

In the end, it all means for me…be gentle with yourself and with others which just means be forgiving. Love yourself, for you are part of Being and love others for they are part of Being. We are sons and daughters of God, like Jesus said. Everyone, regardless of faith or no faith or “other” faith have a plate at God’s table, and there is absolutely nothing one can do to earn that place, just recognize and accept it. I think many understand this One Great Truth at the moment of their death which is why our last look is often so peaceful.

It has taken me a long time to get to this point. Christianity has both hindered my journey and helped it, but mostly hindered it to the point of severe depression. But other religions hinder and help and depress too in their own ways. And  religion-less hinders and helps and depress us too. Being is far, far bigger than any one set of rules and rituals.  Although Christianity is founded upon the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, I don’t think Jesus had any goals of creating a new religion.

This blog has really kind of documented my journey over the past couple of years. When I started it, I had no idea I someday would be writing something like this. Yet, it feels like I am home with all of it. It feels more comfortable, like it has always been there. I am sure I’ll soon be dropping some more F bombs and being cynical and a bit mean again in the near future, but I have learned that I am not perfect and that is o.k. too.You can be yourself when home.

 

Tupperware Treachery

I had a hankering for banana pudding with Vanilla Wafers in it. It is one of favorite desserts, but I only eat it about once a year.

My daughter was coming up tonight to celebrate her birthday, so I thought maybe I would fancy it up some and add fresh strawberries to it. When I went to get a bowl to put it all together, my assistant chef suggested I use a Tupperware container so that I could put a lid on it. At first I thought that would look kind of tacky, but I saw the logic in it.

After dinner, we gathered around the table, sang Happy Birthday to my daughter, and my assistant chef brought out my Tupperware pudding and then next to it, she sat a little something she had planned for dessert…lesson learned. No more, “Let’s put it in Tupperware.”

Popeye

Mighty Mouse, Popeye, Looney Tunes, and all the cartoons associated with Rocky and Bulwinkle were my favorite shows as a young child. Eventually, I grew to appreciate any Hanna-Barbera cartoon, with a deep appreciation for the humor of Yogi Bear and Boo Boo along with the lessons of Fred Flinstone. Truth be known, I thought Barney’s wife, Mrs. Rubble was kind of hot. But, I share too much now.

Perhaps, Popeye was my very first hero. I couldn’t understand how Olive Oyl would keep falling for Bluto time and again.  I believed, I mean I really believed, in the supernatural restorative power of a can of spinach. One day, I finally convinced my grandfather to let me eat my own can of spinach. I was probably about three years old. He said that I wouldn’t like it. He proved to be a wise man. I took the can, and tried to throw the spinach back in my throat, the same way Popeye did when he got tired of getting his ass kicked by Bluto. I spit it all back out quicker than I threw it down the hatch. Outside of that puff of cigarette I tried when no one was looking, it was the worse thing I had ever tasted. I swore off canned spinach, and tobacco, for life. I was very disappointed in Popeye’s taste buds. I did, however, develop a fondness for Whimpy’s favorite food choice…the hamburger he would “Gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.”

There was one phrase Popeye would use consistently at the end of an episode, “I y’am what I y’am.” Like the taste of canned spinach, it has stayed with me. I wish I had understood its true meaning sooner because it’s as  powerful as his can of spinach. If I were to create my own church, it would be called The Church of the I Y’am What I Y’am.  You can spend so much of your life running away from your natural state, who you really are, in an attempt at impressing others or in an attempt to improve your self-esteem – impressing yourself.

I have spent the last couple of years thinking a lot about religion, God, spirituality,  and authenticity. I read many books by believers and non-believers.  I explored a lot of intellectual threads.  My grand conclusuion is that God, whatever name or title you want to use for the Great Mystery,… loves me. There is nothing I can do to earn that love. It is just there and I can recognize it now or at the moment of my death, but I will finally recognize it. And, perhaps more importantly, everyone around me is loved too. So, so simple and yet it has taken me a lifetime to begin to understand it. Why? Well, my traditional religious upbringing did not make it easy to believe in such a simple idea. That is not the only reason though. I think I spent too much time defending an ego. Important and as necessary as that might be at times, too much of a defensive nature can hide your true nature.

So Mr. Popeye, I salute you, sir. Not only are you a great father for swee’ pea, or the boy-kid as you  call him, but you gifted me with words of wisdom which I first heard, probably from my crib, “I y’am what I y’am” and “You are what You are” and that is simple and good, natural and mystical, sacred and holy.

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A good friend, who is not religious at all, felt an urge to record a cover of the old song. For me he captures much of what I just shared, in this blog, with the honesty of his vocals. He is not trying to be anything close to religious, pious, just sharing an idea, the wonderful possibilty of.. an Amazing Grace.