Thursday, March 31, 2011

I Don't Know What to Believe

I've been to church three times in my life. As a ring bearer in my parent's friend's wedding when I was five. Palm Sunday with Patrick Ewald when I was, maybe, 9? Once for an Armenian wedding, sometime in 1998.

We are not religious folk. Solipsism runs big in my family, for one thing, so I think the idea of any one member seeing the world as having a force more interesting than their own belly lint is highly unlikely. Also, they are bourgeois lefties. So, organized religion is out of the question from an intellectual standpoint.

Ohio, though, is God-ish. I have delightful friends who are churchy. Some because they were raised that way, and it's a habit, and others who believe, I presume, in the presence of God. Bully for all of them. Truly.

Somewhere between those two extremes is a whole lot of fudgey goo. I live in there somewhere.
I don't believe in God, but I think atheists can be kind of a downer. I believe there are powerful forces at work that I don't understand and I am highly tuned to miraculous moments. But I'm likely to assign those miracles scientific benefit-of-the-doubt.

The universe, of course, has these stunning, transcendent moments too. Like when you are sitting on lawn chairs, discussing the finer truths with your best friend, and a massive flock of small-winged, migrating birds flies overhead - a flock so large that it casts a shadow across the grass and causes a small current of air to blow down on your hair. The moment is the finest amalgam of science and nature, but let's face it, it's also fucking Godly. So who am I to say?

Sometimes its awkward. Especially raising kids. What to say to kids about any of this? To say you don't believe in God is like denying there is a Santa Claus. It's like you are discounting the existence of magic. I do believe in magic. Magic and puppets.

The universe, you see, is magic. Like when you hear your friend's writing about grief, written and spoken with that most accessible and nimble kind of language, the kind that cuts you down the center like a laser, so clean, that you hardly know you're bleeding out and being cauterized all at once. The universe serves up these beautifully plated moments.

When I read about Anne Lamott's God, I am a believer. Her God seems like someone I'd want to hang out with. A guy who totally gets it all, has that omnipotent humor -is in fact the funniest person in the universe -and who loves you no matter how big a fuck up you are or think you are. I could believe in that guy.

Also, and this is a minor point, Love is God. Not the other way around. That's why I'm doubty and skeptical.

Also, I believe in manners. Doing a kindness. I think being truly open and kind is its own religion and can change the world.

I believe laughter cures by shining warm light into your dark places. Laughing airs you out and removes fungus.

I believe in loyalty. You, all of these people, I'm with them. These are the people on my life raft. You're all coming with me.

What happens when you die? You live in all the good memories people have of you while your body becomes dark soil in which other, smaller things, grow. I'm totally good with that. I think its perfect and beautiful. Who am I to complain?

As for God, I wish them well.


  1. Great post, Jessica (Ohio is 'churchy'; atheists are 'downers'). Agree 100%. Have missed your blog. Must bookmark! Hope all's well with you...

  2. This one made me smile and cry. You are so humble and so honest, Jess Schickel. I do believe in God, which I believe is Love and v.v.
    Anne Lamott is on to something.
    As are you.
    Love, Jen

  3. Exactly! Precisely. Wonderfully written piece.

  4. How did you and I -- raised mostly apart yet within the same solipsistic, belly-lint-gazing family -- come to the exact same spiritual conclusions? Psychology only explains part of it. There is something larger that assigns spirit, or brings souls together. I have always tried to keep my agnosticism from our parents.

    Speaking of miracles, here's one for you: Evolution. Creation is so lame in comparison. Evolution is so perfect and awe-inspiring. So full of complex beauty and the humbling scope geologic and biologic time. Considering all the evidence for it, why can't it be enough? Intelligent design seems like an okay compromise I guess, but takes some of the mystery out of it.

    As for the afterlife, if there's a heaven, then as a good person who has done good works and is also good at parties, I hope the bouncer lets me in. If there is no heaven, then I'd be honored to be mulch. Mulch is miraculous.

  5. I remember long ago walking past a sign outside a church and reading the title of the next sermon which was - Why God? - or some such - and thinking to myself: wait, some people wait to think only on Sundays?

    Seems to me essay questions should be rumbling through all day every day or you're not paying attention.

    The gift of attention and the capacity to be moved rank high in my "religious" practice - and mulch. Definitely mulch.

  6. "Kindness is my religion" - H.H. Dalai Lama