Have you ever met someone who you could swear was born wise? They seem to have it all figured out and somehow automatically know everything you’ve spent so much time trying to grasp. Unfortunately I have to admit I was born more foolish than not, but hopefully I’m growing out of it.
I’m not someone who’s opinions and beliefs never change. I thought I was, but I was wrong. I was raised without religion (by a non-pedantic definition) and at an early age I decided for myself that there are no gods or supernatural forces. Upon hearing of this so-called lack of belief, it’s not entirely uncommon for people to ask that if I don’t believe in God then what do I believe? For me to ask myself the same question isn’t entirely uncommon either, here’s how my answer’s going so far, for now.
A long time ago a friend told me that I’m like a stone in a river. In the grand scheme of things that may not be much, but to all the other pebbles around me I’m a pretty important part of life. It’s the stupidest analogy I’ve ever heard – believe it or not that was my improved version – but how I view the world nowadays is pretty close. Just less stupid.
My life is temporary. I can accept that. Accepting that your life is also temporary is hard part. There are people in this world whom I love immensely and whom I never want to lose. I don’t want you to go.
“I can’t change the world but maybe I can brighten yours for just a moment” is a great-fitting little summary. I make no secret of the fact that I used to suffer from depression. Before it was always, “if we’ll all be gone, then what’s the point anyway?” I wish I could reply to my past self that it really is worth it. Love, joy, wonder – they’re incredible, aren’t they? Life is not an experience to be so readily slighted. I know my past self would retort that if they weren’t here, they wouldn’t know what they’re missing out on and they’d get to avoid all the negative feelings as well. True, but you won’t get another chance to be alive. If life itself has a purpose other than to simply exist it eludes me, but that doesn’t mean that your own life need be meaningless. You have worth and beauty even if they’re hidden from you. What you make of them is your choice, but I hope you do make something of them; I will help you if I can.
(I know a few kind words are no cure for depression though, and had this conversation actually taken place my past self might just have bitch-slapped me – I had rage. Oh, and time machines would exist. Which would be pretty fun until someone went back and stepped on the goo that became life. Then time machines wouldn’t exist. Then we wouldn’t… oh nevermind.)
So I dig into life as I would a stretch of wet sand simply because I enjoy it. Freely distributing love, joy and knowledge and coming by them myself gives me great pleasure. The hedonism does eventually stop though and I do have moral values from which I decline to stray. (Or perhaps by following said morals I avert pain and increase everyone’s pleasure – mine, and mine again as a result of increasing yours – and thus satisfy my hedonistic tendencies. Hrm.)
Confucius say, “What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others” – I think the vast majority of us keep in line with that one. We’re not about to traffic humans, rob banks, or go around punching random passers-by. Given the brilliance of life, I don’t wish to taint yours. I can’t tell you why I’ve always had morals (unless you want me to make something up), but this adoration of life helps me to further appreciate and expand upon them.
Here’s something I’ve learned recently. Once upon a time while blog-surfing, I came across an entry where the author quoted from a book about Buddhism he’d been reading. While the exact quote escapes me, the gist of it was that when you find yourself affected by anger, to remember that it is their anger; you need not let it become yours.
What a beautiful thought. An incredibly beautiful thought, and such a gently powerful idea. It was promptly added to my moral code has been in practise ever since. Now I see all the times I responded to anger with outrage and resentment when instead dignity and forgiveness would have sufficed. If only I could find the blog again to say thank you!
I’m learning religious tolerance. Actually a better phrase would be that I have tolerance for religion but not yet understanding. If your beliefs give your life meaning and lead you to live justly and with virtue, then I am happy for you. I imagine knowing that there is something grander than the universe itself must be… it must be nice. As someone who’s never been religious and most likely never will be though, I won’t be so brash as to try and describe it further.
May I ask you something other than this question that’s currently in progress? If it’s not too personal, what do your beliefs (or lack thereof) mean to you? Or what do they feel like? (I also enjoy ambiguous questions because what people choose to tell interests me just as much as what they say about it.) I’m a curious person who needs to listen to others more often. Your thoughts would be appreciated.