Tag Archives: solitude

Recompense

What is it that drives religion?  What keeps the gears of the masses oiled, the coffers full, the leaders employed?

Predominantly, it is fear of punishment or desire for reward.

Fear of hell-fire and damnation.  Fear of a god named satan, a devil, an angel gone bad.  Spending eternity in a fire pit ruled by the devil, surrounded by the worst of the worst sort of evil people – rapists, murderers, cannibals, thieves, liars.

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Desire to live in a paradise with no pain, no death.  Streets that are lined with silver and gold, and mansions galore.  Rights to rule over and judge other people, to enact punishments upon others.  Ultimate power, to be like a god.  Angels floating nearby, surrounded by all of the note-worthy saints and patriarchs of old.

I took up residence in that camp, or one quite similar, for a long period of time.

I’ll concede that there are many variations to this view, and I’ve taken the most liberal case in point.  The gist is still the same, however.

I’m no longer fearful of hell or a make-believe devilish character.

I no longer strive to spend eternal days in the heavens, ephemeral beings and blissful promises dispelled.

I’ve chosen my truth.  The fact that what I have, what I know, what I live, is what it is.  There’s no better place, there’s no better time.  This is my life and this is what I have to work with.

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The punishment, sans an operational Priesthood to govern, is self-imposed.  If I transgress in one of the minor issues, I do the best that I can to make the required restitution.  It’s pretty simple, really.  Thievery – pay it back, and add a fifth.  Liar – okay, there’s no punishment for this unless it’s been as a witness, or to incur punishment on another who is not guilty.  If the lie was to hurt another, then the pain should belong to me.  If my dog gets out and eats a neighbor’s chicken, I need to repay the chicken.

Major punishments – those I intend to never have to deal with.  I don’t want to be expelled from my already virtual camp, nor do I want to die.  I’ll keep myself from that evil by remaining faithful to my husband, by keeping the Sabbath.  I’ll control my anger and not go into a rage and kill another person.

As a result of grave misdeeds and vile doings, the people I would reside with, the community in the Land of Almighty’s choice, have been expelled, punished, judged to live outside of the Land, outside of the covenanted protection.  Therefore, the ultimate reward of Torah, to dwell safely, to have productive lands and productive wombs, is suspended and not available to those who would join the community.

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The ability to continue to enjoy Almighty’s creation, however, is still available.  The joy of Almighty’s created beauty is still reward.  The ability to wake up each day, to know that there is no other; this Creator, this Almighty, God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, is my God.

What more reward would I desire?

Suffered Life

I have recovered from a long period of depression – in the midst of my depression, every event, every duty, every change was taken in by my despairing mind as a personal attack. A thing to be suffered. Another thing to survive.

It’s so hard to believe I was like that now that I’ve healed.

But I remember.

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I know my thoughts, how I would literally be buffeted by every single fucking thing. Hammering at me. Constantly. Ceaselessly. Pressed down further into the deep pit of despair by the weight of it all.

Every little thing another burden, another suffered pain.

I cannot find the words to describe to you how relieving it is to be free of that weight. To be myself again, a person I’d lost and didn’t even know I was missing. Can you imagine?

It’s a little frightening to look back at how poorly I handled my work load, my loved ones, myself.

 

Our home reflected my negligence. Dust littered walls and decor. Cobwebs in corners and ladybug skeletons in light fixtures. Disorganized closets and drawers. Stacks of indecisive mail pleas.

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Work fared some better. I was busy at my job. I was completing tasks. I can’t say that I was unproductive, that’s not really the case. I wasn’t wholly engaged. I was pained by the pressures, pained by the responsibility. Procrastination took on a new level as I allowed every deadline to guide my last-minute rush to complete tasks. Challenging items lay piled like little losses across the desktop, normally bare.

Loved ones received little response from me. Conversations were stilted, as I simply had little to give. Rote queries became tiring and friendly visits a perceived personal attack on my pig pen space.

 

I cared little about keeping up and was quite surprised to find my nails too long, and my shoes scuffed and dirty, and my socks worn bare. I realized that I had chosen a few outfits and wore them repeatedly, a pattern of my ailment.

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I see now that challenges had overwhelmed me, robbed me of my confidence. I could no longer believe that I had any abilities, any worth, anything worth fighting for.

Perhaps that was driven by my affected memory loss, my lack of B12. It’s also a symptom of depression. Realistically, it’s a sick cycle – which came first, the B12 deficiency or the depression? It doesn’t really matter now, does it?

I suffered life.

The shame of this does not escape me. I regret with my whole being the time that I lost to this down. Life is too short to waste time, as we only live once. This is our opportunity and it doesn’t wait around.

What I know is that life is hard, and there are going to be icy patches that take your legs out from under you and the landing might bust your ass.

The patriarch Jacob/Israel nailed it when he said it had been a long, hard life.

But there are joys and beauties and challenges and people who make those hard things seem better, easier, worth it.

There is the living, the breathing, the taking it in and giving back out. The push and the pull, the ups and the downs, the ride – the scenes.

There are the connections, those electrical charges that occur when you are affected by another human being. Warm hugs and handshakes, twinkling eyes smiling and sorrowful eyes sharing pain.

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Belly laughs, crying because you’ve laughed so hard, laughing too hard because you’re trying to retell a remembered funny and it just makes you laugh more, sighing because that memory was so sweet.

There is beauty around us that makes us silent, steals our breath, the majesty of creation – acknowledgement of an Almighty that put this tiny sphere in the universe for a reason, a purpose that escapes us. And that’s okay. We’re not meant to know.

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And work to keep our minds active, and flexed and eager for the next challenge. Labors that produce more than the material design that we’re striving for, but that also build muscle and endurance and an appetite for the bounty of this great planet.

And something here might seem to have some faint recognition in your brain, some far away bell sounding a muted alert, some rusty hinge squeak coarsely affecting your ears.

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Listen, pay attention, you who are suffering life.
Get help!

Find the reason and pour every bit of energy you have left into fixing yourself.

You deserve it, you’re worth it.

Life is.

Don’t miss it.

Shadowed Rituals

Funerals are never on the top list of things to do. Not the ‘I wanna’ list anyway.

But when a death occurs in the family, or in the family of a dear friend, you offer your support: attend a ritual to help the living move forward and let the dead lie.

That’s how I found myself inside a catholic cathedral last year. (I’m not christian, in case you’re just stopping by – used to be, was trained to be, but then I discovered my beliefs – long story  – follow along if you’d like to know more).

Life in a primarily christian surround becomes an ever-present obstacle course of fluxing themes and cultural inheritances; a deluge of seasonal visual and audio barrages that keep me reeling from sensory overload and instant transport back through my memory banks. There are times when I find myself with a hymn stuck in my head. Damn!

I digress. Back to the funeral. Not where I wanted to be, for certain, but where I went to give formal support to my friends.

There is a definite shadow of Torah upon which the catholic religion is based. I say shadow not to incite, but because when we’re talking about an entirely different god, I cannot with good conscience say that it is built on Torah. Structured to resemble/shadow, yes. Definitely. When you see a good thing… why reinvent the wheel, right?

So I’m watching the incense burner ritual, noticing the priest’s clothing, the washing of hands. I look around me at the grandeur, imagining that there is, at the very least, gold-plating on the vessels. Also, the physical structure of the cathedral, the massive columns, the intricate designs, the lavish shine and polish a replica of the temple built once kings were placed in an unwarranted position and allowed to replace the importance of the priesthood.

Suddenly, I feel the loss of what Almighty designed. The tears I shed are not the same as those shed by the people around me.

The loss of Torah, the exile, is more poignant when you have such a visual reminder.

Granted, those specific rituals would NEVER have been seen by the community. They were not available to the common man or to the Levites. Only Priests entered the Mishkan, and only the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies. The only things that may have been witnessed by the community were the sacrifices on the main altar, which stood outside the Mishkan.

The rituals served to bring back to mind the words of Torah, the commands in place for the structures, the rituals, the Priestly commands.

Catholicism has at least retained a decent copy of the hierarchical structure commanded by Almighty. Warped and extremely faulty, in my opinion, but a reminder, nonetheless, of the place Priests were given in Torah. The importance of an eternal heritage, a constant position to serve Almighty and to give the people a conduit for serving Almighty.

These thoughts were forefront as I contemplated the end of my life, in comparison.

What end-of-life closing rituals will I, or should I employ when I feel my life slipping away?

I have no need to accept a savior. I have no hell to fear, no heaven to which to aspire. I’ve no last rites or rituals commanded.

Those commands that I’ve broken are to be atoned as soon as I know them, and restitution made where required. Those commands that I’ve broken unknowingly are graciously covered annually through Yom Kippur.

What I will have is the ending of what I am now.

I reflected on the fact that I hope to have 30 to 40 more years of this life. A lot of time to live the example of my beliefs and to hope for an inheritance to share. A lot of time to watch the world go ticking along, for better or worse. A lot of time to put words on pages. A lot of time for pain, for sorrows, for hardships. A lot of time for beauty and joy and laughter. A lot of time for family and friends and food and work. A lot of time to consider my end.

And at the end, if the time of my end becomes clear to me, I hope to call a dear friend. I hope to make connection with my Priest and to tell him I’m ready for Almighty to give me Shalom. And I hope to sleep with my ancestors.

The Disconnected Life of a Common Man

Religion is one of those subjects best left off the table.

You keep to your beliefs and I’ll keep to mine and we’ll get along just fine, yes indeed.
But years go by…

Beliefs evolve and mature, as an aging soul takes stock. The outcome: a realization that time is slipping ever so quickly past and that what there is left is all there is.

Time to make the best of what I’ve got.

I find that I no longer care to get along. Haven’t, in fact, cared for almost two decades. But I’m polite, sociable, so I’ve kept my mouth shut for the most part. Carried my beliefs in my innermost being and trudged along like everything was just fine on the exterior.

I’m saddened, you see.

I’m bereft and disconnected.

My people, my community, is not to be found.

I’m a functional silo, like the others who believe as I do, with our only support system one that is as tenuous as the continued strength of the electrical grid and the satellite system.

Our “community” is who we are – individuals pocketed and scattered hither and thither, singular souls taking stance in a world of difference and indifference.

It creates a sorrow like no other, an ache for what has been lost since before the first Israelite temple was built, before the first king was chosen:

The community of the Hebrews, comprised of twelve tribes and the Levites, all ruled by the Priests. The Aaronic priests, who were the sole recipients, the sole keepers, the sole instructors for God’s words. A community whose rules included full acceptance of strangers, like me, who stumbled across and took as oath the wholehearted beauty of a system entirely dependent upon the Rule of God.

Mesmerizing in its perfect simplicity, it has created a longing, a desire for a thing that I don’t believe I will ever live to see.

There.

That’s the reason for the sorrow, the ache.

Detachment.

Unfulfilled dreams.

Dreams dependent on people who are blind to their roles.

My role is to be a common man, the role of the twelve tribes and the stranger – no gender bias, just simplicity – and to fulfill my daily role of living a life commanded by God through Torah, relayed by the Priests, sons of Aaron.

I’ll keep my role. I’ll not waver from it.

But damn, it’s lonely out here.