[Apologies to those who saw this already but WordPress somehow took my published post and unpublished it and reverted it to draft]
What did I believe?
Why did I believe it?
Why was I a photographer?
A father? A husband?
Not go to church but consider myself highly spiritual?
Love nature, as if it were… in my soul?
And many more questions.
This is a long post, but if you’ve ever felt disconnected, have experienced great loss, gone through a life threatening condition, mid life crisis or simply questioned what life is about I encourage you to read through it.
It has been awhile since I really posted something that I found true to the reason that I created this blog. It’s very simple… my father passed away, and shortly after that my stepmother as well. Both great figures in my life. Grieving is such a strange thing to go through. You not only have the loss of life that is very close to you, but you also have the loss of the parts of you that used to be rock solid. Things that seemed important no longer are. The lives of those around you just keep moving along. And so many questions arise.
My dad passed away four months ago, and my stepmother a month after that. I started writing this on April 4th…my 50th year. It’s some exploration of an area of existence that I’m not sure there’s an answer for. Not one that I’ve found anyway.
Here we go…
In the wake of my father and stepmothers’ passing, and under the microscope of my own mid-life passage, and self reflection, I have been left with several questions about what the hell we’re doing here and what purpose we have other than generating an income and consuming. How do our belief systems play into how we interpret and interact with our world, and what if you question your core values during these times, and, as in my case, they appear to completely abandon you.
In “The Garden” I wrote about how we can’t fully know how much of what we feel and believe, can be relied upon as being “born within us” and how much of it is imbued upon us through family, friends, society, religion, and culture. A road that we are set on, wearing carefully crafted glasses, that shape our world views and, our “personal” beliefs, and our prejudices. What would these glasses reveal, if we were born and raised in Canada, Bangladesh, or the Sudan. Ours views on family, love, hate, God, religion, a meaningful life, and the afterlife would all be shaped differently.
Initially, this is not a choice. We are indoctrinated very early in life from very well meaning people. It is only when, with age and maturity and curiosity, we may begin to challenge, ask questions and seek out our own answers, and simply ask…
“Why do I believe that”?
“What do I believe?
Some of you may never ask this question, but for those who look deep, and really examine whats at the heart of “Self,” you may begin to understand just how much (or how little) influence others have had on shaping who you believe yourself to be. And maybe, begin to understand the nature of who you really are, and possibly, the reasons for the quality of your perceived existence.
So, as I left the hospital on both occasions, and drove home, a growing sense of frustration and unease crept over me. Images and thoughts flashed quickly. Family, and friends, my beliefs, and theirs, my father, and his positive and negative impact that he had on me. Things I have achieved and not achieved, and how everything fits with what I have discovered from my quiet, and sometimes very emotional, and not so quiet introspection.
As I kissed the forehead of my dying father and held the hand of my passing stepmother, I could slowly see the shadow of my own mortality lengthening. And I couldn’t stop thinking about the passage of life and what purpose, if any, there is, or was, or could be. What had their lives meant? Did they feel they lived a life that ultimately mattered to themselves and others? Was it fulfilling? What about regrets? Would they have done things differently? Would it have made a difference? Did they even think about it? I began to compare where I was to where they were, and examine where I fell short. I think it’s normal to use those around you as yardsticks. And then I thought to myself, does it really matter.
In the days that passed, I would go about a simple routine. I would wake up, enter the world of the busy masses, and observe. At cafe’s, and restaurants, on the street as people hustled by on their way to the next meeting. Stuck in traffic to and from work. And it just seemed so unbelievably pointless. You grow up, go to school, get a good job, get married, have kids, go to work. Work for decades, and in that time, acquire things. Take a few holidays, work some more, acquire even more, and finally retire. Hopefully with your health so you can enjoy the time you have left. All that was expected of you. Make mom and dad proud. Conform to what we were all taught as children and teens as the “right path”. That’s all fine and nice as long as it truly reflected who you were. You loved your life from beginning to end with few questions. Became what you always dreamt of. But, what if you became an engineer because that’s what was expected, but you really wanted to be an artist. Chose friends and a lifestyle and created a persona based on what you believed society expected of you. Got married because, that’s what your family expected, time was ticking, but you knew they weren’t “the one” and sadly, stayed this course your entire life. The end, would come very, very differently, and very sadly.
So………. How much of who I believe myself to be, is really me? How much is my father and mother and stepmother? How about the rest of my family and friends, and experiences I’ve had ?
Who am I?
What did I believe? Why did I believe it? Why was I a photographer? A father? A husband? Play guitar? Not go to church but consider myself highly spiritual? Love nature, as if it were, in my soul? And many more questions.
The only thing I knew for sure was, I was born to be creative, curious, and ask questions. I had done so since I could talk, walk, and look up at night sky with wonder. Walk in the forest, down trails, and feel the sun on my face. Look up at the mountains, or sit and listen to a creek, ocean surf or the wind in the trees and stare into a campfire and see my ancient self in it.
I learned to never take what someone told me as truth until I examined as many sides as possible, and make my own conclusions. This involved my religious and political beliefs and several other areas of life that are given to you as a gift from your family as you are raised.
But, one persons truth does not have to be your own. It all comes down to choice. That was one of the best things my father taught me. Question things. Simply apply curiosity and seek knowledge.
So, in classic style, I began the process of asking questions within myself and was having a hell of a time even coming close to what this all meant. Like trying to step on your shadow. Maybe it was simple grieving. A natural response to losing two people within a very short that were very close to me.
I held off posting this because I wasn’t able to really complete what I had set out to do. To fully grasp, what I was trying to convey or answer. As my eyes opened wider and I asked more questions, I couldn’t find the comforting answers and understanding that I had come to expect from exploration. I didn’t find peace. And maybe that’s what we were never meant to find. Draw the curtain back and reveal that life is more than we thought. And maybe the tension we feel from time to time is when we realize that the life we are living may be an illusion. When I achieve this or that, make enough to buy that thing, then I’ll be happy. Tomorrow, I’ll be happy. But this is always a moving target. The promises of happiness and fulfillment never really appear. You play the game and achieve what you think you need and generally it will never be enough. And then you realize, something fundamental is missing. Something… This is where I fall down. Whats is it thats missing? Whats left?
Tune out the noise…
I began to understand that “life” as we know it is noisy. Full of work, kids, TV, Facebook, Twitter, and yes blogs and so much more that we engage in, ultimately add nothing to who we are. But we think it’s so important. It’s not. It’s such a waste of time and as I’ve started to understand, time is precious. It distracts us from what’s really important and when you realize it, it’s painful. And I guess it’s for that reason we do it. To distract ourselves from our possibly stark realities and not face that pain. Because in many cases it means turning several aspects of your life upside down and how do you start over from that?
I have been talking for so long. Listening to the opinions of friends and family, reading the teachings and opinions of others and examining theological explanations and I will never find the answers from any of these sources. They’re are all disparate opinions. Nothing more. I’m not going to find what I’m looking for amongst the hustle and bustle of daily life or the noise of living.
And this is when it dawned on me. It was in what I wrote earlier.
“The only thing I knew for sure, I was born to be creative, curious, and ask questions. I had done so since I could talk, walk, and look up at night sky with wonder. Walk in the forest, down trails, and feel the sun on my face. Look up at the mountains, or sit and listen to a creek, ocean surf or the wind in the trees and stare into a campfire and see my ancient self in it.”
Maybe part of what I’m looking for is as simple as that. For it is only in the quiet of the mountains and forests, or looking at the ocean or up at the moon in that beautiful night sky and looking into that campfire that whatever it is, feels closest. In that peace and silence it speaks to me without saying a word. I will never pretend to know. It is far to big for any of us to truly understand. But I feel truly connected to it when I silence what we have created as our normal and expected human path. As an an Agnostic (Sorry Ayn) this is the closest I will ever come to knowing what God is. I think this is where I’ll find my answers. Not from the internet, not from noted experts, not from friends and family and not from books. I will find my answers by simply sitting quietly and tuning out and unplugging, and letting the silence of nature and solitude speak to me. Maybe this is why I’m driven to explore that trail, climbing through the difficult parts till you come across something that takes your breath away. Places where many others would have stopped just short of the parking lot or the fading internet connection and never had that experience.
In a strange way, it’s much louder than the white noise of life and maybe thats what frightens some of us away from it. It doesn’t come with easy answers. I comes with a deep sense of calm and knowing without anything being said. A voiceless conversation between yourself and the flowing sense of awe that surrounds everything in this wonderful universe. It’s there all the time, it always has been. It always will be.
It is pure wisdom. And we just need to tune into it a little more while we still can.