[ w o r d s a s r e l i g i o n ]
I want to start this post with a story of an OKCupid encounter I had today that turned into a real moment of self-realization for me.
For those of you that don't know, OKCupid "matches" you based upon your answers to user-created questions. Your answers to those questions (along with any explanation you might give) can end up on somebody else's frontpage. Today I answered the question, "Are you atheist?" My answer was no, and my reasoning was something along the lines of, "It is as difficult to prove the non-existence of God as it is to prove the existence of God." I received a message fifteen minutes later from an atheist who basically told me my logic was flawed. Thus ensued a heated theological debate where I vehemently argued for the right to allow for the possibility of God.
It was only in the midst of this that I realized this was not the first time I have argued with an atheist before. As a person always uncomfortable with religious institutions, it was somewhat surprising to me to find that I felt just as viscerally against self-righteous, arrogant atheists as I felt against self-righteous, prosthelytizing Protestants. This felt personal to me, even though I describe myself as an Agnostic. I am, I realize now, far more spiritual than I consciously believe myself to be.
I share this anecdote to frame the story that I read at KGB last night. It is an incomplete work that I hope to finish over the next few weeks and then begin revising. I wrote most of it in one day, the day before the reading. But in some ways, I have been working on it for the past few weeks, since the September 11th anniversary, a day that gutted me and affected me so much that I accompanied two friends to church because I didn't know what else to do. We ended up talking about spirituality and religion for hours afterwards as we made our way, unconsciously, downtown towards Ground Zero. This story came out of all of that, a messy cocktail of not knowing how to make sense of all the things that move me.
At the heart of it, too, is this epiphany that I can't discount spirituality because of art. I don't think you can sit in a basilica and listen to Faure's Requiem or read a poem that catches your breath without feeling like there might be something bigger than science can explain. And sometimes I think that's all I need to believe in.
While I was working on this story, a series of seemingly serendipitous coincidences occured. I have also simultaneously been working on several freelance pitches, and one required me to do some research. I read a psychological study about a person with retrograde memory loss who could only find their center during Mass and while listening to music -- almost exactly the thing I was writing about. Another leg of research involved conversations with cab drivers. A little while later, I read a tweet about a cab driver who had had an extended conversation about Deuteronomy.
It felt like the Universe was talking to me.
Here too, my penchant to want to draw connections and feel like some kind of markers are being laid out -- that is evidence of the kind of cosmic things I can't disbelieve in.
This story started out as a way to think about all of this for myself. What it means to believe in something beautiful and moving when you are lost, even if you lack the ability to believe in the things that institutions tell you are right.
I hope I can finish it. I have no idea where it's going or what it means or what is going on. But I believe in words and story, and I believe the story will guide me. These are the kinds of things I believe in. I'm not sure about the existence of God, maybe, but art, words, duende -- I have faith in those unnameable powers. Maybe in someways it is the same thing. Maybe it's just semantics.