The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life
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Thursday, December 25, 2003
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Ah yes, Christmas. Being brought up in the Christian – Catholic tradition, I’m quite familiar with the mythology behind the great Christian solstace festival. At bottom, it’s all about birth and death. The two great mysteries. Why the heck were we put here, and why the heck are we gonna die?

A lot of children ask their parents those questions. There aren’t really any good answers available. But the religions use their myths to provide beautiful answers, answers that at least make you feel good listening to them even thought they’re not really answers.

But let me digress from the abstract to the real for a moment. I spent the afternoon at my mother’s house today, had a Christmas dinner and then exchanged gifts. My mom is now in her early 80s, which for my family is equivalent to 100 or so (I know, for some families, you can still play racquetball if not lacrosse in your early 80s — but we don’t quite have those genetics). Every year she’s a little bit less with us, and this year it was quite noticable. A very bittersweet situation.

On my drive home in the dark, thinking about my mom, thinking about people my age who have bit the dust, my mind drifted back to the unanswerable childhood question: why do we have to die? I can’t quite deal with the real aspect of that question right now, so let me wander back over to the abstract side. The Zen masters think up all sorts of fancy koans as mental exercises to help their inner development, but that simple question has all of them beat; it’s the ultimate spiritual show-stopper. As convoluted as Christian mythology can be, it probably places more emphasis on death as a pivot point for spiritual growth than any of the other major religions.

So, even though I did not go into a church today to celebrate the birth of Christ as the savior from death, I tip my hat tonight to a faith system that brings its followers close to the dark voids of death while in search of ultimate life. If and when a better type of religion evolves upon this earth, it will need to recognize and utilize many of Christianity’s symbols and stories in its quest to advance the faithful in their search for a truer kind of God and a kinder and gentler form of life (even if it doesn’t teach those stories as infallible and inflexible truth — the ultimate pitfall of Christianity and most other major religions).

Well, I have a nasty cold, so I’m going to bed early. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 7:39 pm      

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