Friday, March 23, 2012

Moment of Awakening

When I returned from the Solomon Islands, I brought with me a wealth of experience living in a wholesome, integrated environment. I also brought with me the experience of living among people no longer divided by want of resources, but divided by the arbitrary event of which missionary group converted their grandparents.

I met Seventh Day Adventists who lived on separate islands and did not associate with their own family who were Methodist, or Catholic, or Mormon, or whatever other branch reached its tendrils to the Solomon Islands.

I had gone to the Solomon Islands solid in my faith. And left disillusioned--the emperor's clothes were slipping off.

My first job I got after returning was a kennel cleaner for the Helen Woodward Animal Center's kennel for dogs whose owners are on vacations. The first day I was hired I knew it wasn't for me. On my lunchbreak I sat outside a deli in an upscale Rancho Santa Fe shopping plaza. It was a weekday afternoon in fall. The stores and restaurants were mostly empty; the clerks swept the patio to stay busy.

Sitting at a round patio table, on the most pleasant of San Diego days, with an egg salad sandwich and a pickle, I felt uneasy. This job, with the dogs who were ironically so spoiled and loved by their owners, but they were just sad or frantic with homesickness. All the processing of returning to a world of shopping and working and planning from a world of gardening and fishing and being. And I couldn't turn to the church for comfort. I knew now that the church was just a shell game. God didn't help the people of the Solomons. People helped people.

But letting go of God was bothering me. I used to say that one of the biggest miracles of the church was that it brought people together. Even the Solomon people loved church and would be in church all day on Sunday, singing and feasting into the night sometimes. If I let go of God what would be left? What would I cling to? Who would take care of me?

And right at that moment a wren landed in a potted shrub right at my eye-level, and the little yellow glass bead of an eye locked onto mine long enough to burn the image into my mind. And the message from the bird was:

I am you and you are me. We are all one and we have each other to depend on and to help through life. And joy was born in my heart and I did not feel alone. I felt lighter as I allowed myself to let go...

That was the beginning of my atheism.

Today I lean toward Buddhism. It brings me the most comfort. One of the ideas of Buddhism that brings me comfort is reincarnation, which is just as much of a fairy tale idea as God. But I can choose to listen to whichever fairy tales I want to. I think that is a good place to be for me right now.

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