Resurrecting the ghost

Image: Arto Marttinen

This is nuts. Here I am, in real-time, on this blog, reconciling my relationship to G-g-g…

I can barely say it. See, I haven’t been a ‘God’ guy for a long time. As much as I write and pontificate about spirituality and such, you can probably count on three or four fingers how many times I’ve used the word in the last couple years.

I know I’m not alone on this. Today, it’s seen as practical to box up the big-guy with the fairy tale books we had when we were kids.

Yes, I grew up Catholic-ish. Before my mother passed, she took me to church a few times. I really enjoyed the physical vibe of the church, but as soon as the priest began speaking, I’d lose consciousness and drift off to sleep, only to be woken up by my slightly embarrassed mom (who laughed about it — I think she could relate to my boredom).

My dad was a fallen southern baptist. He renounced the church when he was a kid, but he maintained the ‘Christian’ label his entire life and pointed at The Bible for a few life lessons as I was growing up.

All in all, my religious experience as a kid wasn’t… bad. It just wasn’t really there much. I believed in God and would pray every night — one Hail Mary, one Lord’s Prayer (am I supposed to be capitalizing these?), and one Act of Contrition before asking him for stuff like my mom getting healthier, more money, etc.

When my mom passed, I didn’t blame it on God. I just saw it as a bureaucratic oversight — he had a lot of people to tend to and my mom probably couldn’t afford his fee. No hard feelings.

But as I became more ‘spiritual’, I started de-personifying the big man upstairs. I always kinda thought that whole idea of the old man in the clouds as bollocks. In my mind, I turned ‘him’ into an ‘it’ and he became an energy of a sort.

This was empowering. Now, he was strictly on the inside.

But after some time — and I’m just now starting to see this — something started missing. I couldn’t put my finger on it — still can’t — but God took on a different dimension.

Thinking back to my childhood, I remember having vivid conversations with God. Sure, he made me feel guilty at times, but not unhealthily so. I’d thank him for the great things and I’d curse at him for the bad. I’d beg him for the bright, shiny things I desired in life and when I saw some of them come to fruition, I’d celebrate the fact that I had a cosmic homeboy of sorts backing me up.

And then, one day, he was gone. I bottled him up and turned him into a ghost — still there in spirit, but gone in flesh.

I think a lot of us have done this.

We’ve killed God in the name of practicality, even spirituality.

Although we did it with the best of intentions, we may have killed off something crucial to our human experience.

Think about it… We want ‘things’ in life, sure, but what we really treasure are ‘people’. Other humans. This is what really drives us. We’re always doing something for someone, trying to prove ourselves to someone, trying to keep our promises to someone special.

That ‘someone’ is the main thing. Although that person may change over time, there’s usually someone there. Without that someone, not only do we lose the thing we desire — how we relate to a person — we lose the feeling to desire in the first place. When we lose someone we love, we don’t even want to want. We find it hard to move forward. It hurts at first and even when it stops, we’re still effected by it in some underlying way.

Killing the personal god has produced the ominous feeling of living without anyone watching.

The sunset is nice, but it’s worlds better with someone there to enjoy it with.

Although we may have real live people to share those sunsets with, there’s still something fundamentally satisfying about that person in the clouds watching over us. Guiding us. Helping us live better lives.

There’s a lot of that whole story that serves us best being thrown out. But a lot of it may just be what we need to push on.

I see a lot of younger folks lacking the luster for life. Maybe they always have, but it seems particularly so today. I’m not a religious guy — really. I think a lot of religion has set humanity back in certain regards. It’s what we humans do: Two steps forward. One step back. Repeat.

But I’m starting to see that while we were at it, we may have thrown out something essential to our humanity.

This is something I’m grappling with right now. I don’t know what the big lesson is. All I know is that I’m reconciling something that I didn’t really know needed to be reconciled. And it feels right.

God... The ghostly one inside and the personal one outside. Why not both?

Maybe those sunsets will get a little brighter.


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