One of my favorite books is “The Life of Pi.” If you haven’t read it yet and don’t want the story spoiled for you stop reading.
OK, now anyway, for all you non-quitters: Toward the end of the book we learn that Pi, an Indian child/spiritual seeker (whatever that means) of zookeeper parents, has made up this wondrous but completely unbelievable story about surviving on a small boat for 227 days with a bengal tiger after being shipwrecked at sea on the way to the Land of Milk in a Bag, ie Canada. The truth is something much harsher …
but Pi tells his inquirers he made up the tale because it’s the better story. “And so it is with G*d,” he says.
As I’ve grown older I’ve grown apart from the faith I clung to as a young adult, for many of the same reasons everyone else does. Let’s not get into those now. Anyway, there’s always been a part of me that’s held on to some remnant of hope, of belief. There’s Jesus, of course. He’s the one person I haven’t met whom I most admire, respect and try to fashion my life after. Taken apart from the Christian faith, I can accept Jesus. I can even believe in pretty much everything he says, even as I become more secular, more of a humanist, more of an agnostic.
But there’s something that keeps me hanging on, like the poster of the cat who’s dangling from a rope.
That’s me, dangling. Sometimes it’s Jesus — and particularly his teachings on love — that keeps me tied to that faith.
Other times, like today, I wonder if I don’t cling because it’s the better story, that is because it’s comforting. Let me back up.
I get a call from my realtor just after four. Can I come to the house? I have a water leak. I knew this was a possibility when I turned my water back on today. My worst fears fill my head. I approach the house and hear the sound of Niagara. Not good.
My dining room ceiling? On the floor below. My basement? Six inches of water — from the second floor bathroom. The overhead light in the dining room is hanging from a wire. Who knows how much it will cost to fix.
I could have cursed G*d for literally bringing the roof (ceiling) down on me (the dining room floor), but for some reason I didn’t.
I searched my mind for someone to blame and couldn’t find anyone.
I thought about getting real good and drunk to forget it all, but thought better of it.
I contemplated listening to some really depressing music (that’s what I like to do when I’m down), but choose mewithoutYou’s newest.
A line comes across the speakers as I race to my house to shut the water off. It says something about forgiving everyone, everything, everywhere, all the time and I think of Jesus and I look at the beautiful green trees with their branches stretched to heaven and I think of the birds and all the animals all around me and how they’re provided for and I think, you know, I’m sure I’ll be provided for too. Of course, I live in the richest country in the history of civilization, so I’m sure that has more to do with it. But anyway, instead of feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders or like I could jump off a bridge, I feel, well, not peace, but just OK.
I start to think about that story I told you about at the beginning. What if I only think of all this — you know, that I’ll be “OK,” whether because of G*d or America or my parents or whatever (because it’s all a form of faith really) — because it’s my mind’s way of comforting itself, sort of an evolutionary way of dealing with stress?
I wish I had some clever way to wrap this up, but that’s what I’m left with at 10:50 p.m. on a Thursday night. I’m drained and I’m thinking about G*d and 42 and why stuff happens when it does and how the Bible is really just a story of people trying to get to know G*d and failing, most of the time, quite miserably. How it shouldn’t be taken literally, as actual instructions for our lives, but as a narrative, as part of the story.
And I’m thinking about my story. We each have a story and I’m trying to decide where this chapter fits in and how I want it to end. The choice is mine. I could go anywhere from here. I could sink into a deep depression, wondering why this has happened to me or I could lift myself up once again and get my shit together and not just hope every thing’s “OK,” but actually work to make sure every thing’s OK.
I think I’ll choose the better ending, even if it’s only for self-preservation.