I’ve been reading a lot lately (lots of Alain de Botton and Her Holiness Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi) and thinking more comprehensively, discerning more comprehensively, yet I don’t feel any closer in finding what it is I seek.
“We can conclude …that we are drawn to call something beautiful whenever we detect that it contains in a concentrated form those qualities in which we personally, or our societies more generally, are deficient. We respect a style which can move us away from what we fear and towards what we crave: a style which carries the correct dosage of our missing virtues.”
— Alain de Botton, The Architecture of Happiness
I’m at an interesting point of my life. I desire simplicity, freedom, adventure, beauty, awareness, zest for life and an open heart. These are all qualities I feel I am lacking, and as de Botton says, these are things I am drawn to other aspects of my life such as art, artefacts and architecture.
The reality is that I just don’t believe… in anything.
I used to believe in lots, I used to care about things. I used to have a social conscience and care about tanks dismembering student demonstrators, about animals caught in oil spills, about the girls around the world sold into slavery against their will. I used to be passionate about things, stuff.
But now… I don’t believe in much at all. And besides being boring, there’s a real void. I lack the patience, empathy, time. I have the attention span of a gnat. And I find myself travelling in my mind back to places I’ve been that seem more simple, more honest and in tune to the machinations of human interaction. I seek happiness, bliss… but is happiness something we can never attain, only obvious to us in retrospect? Have I closed myself off to experiencing or enjoying anything in response to being around death and heartbreak at work each day?
I remember being in Kindergarten and having to colour-in the Scripture Book, and I didn’t feel anything. Nothing. Throughout school, I just faked it: I sang the songs at Chapel, I did the homework assignments for Christian Studies and rather enjoyed drifting “off with the fairies” as soon as I had to sit through a sermon (or whatever it was called).
In Year 11, my parents were called in to see the Chaplain to discuss why I received 2/100 on my Christian Studies exam. I told the truth: I didn’t answer in the affirmative because I didn’t believe, but I cited the references appropriate to back up my stance. Wasn’t that what they were after – me reading and forming my own conclusions? Er, no.
But an upside of the religious education I received was a half-arsed ability to answer bible questions on Jeopardy… so it all evens out.
So it put this question out there: what do you believe in?
What makes your life worth living?
Have you ever thought you could pack it all in and move to an ashram in India or baptised as Amish, forgoing all of the technological gadgets you ‘need’?
What do I believe in?
I believe in the capacity for goodness in the majority of human beings (despite working with some of the most self-absorbed, arrogant, disrespectful individuals ever created!). I believe that there is no such thing as a happy ending without seemingly endless struggle. I believe that there is nothing more beautiful than whennyou have been woken at some hour that should have been made illegal only to be surprised by an incredibly sunrise that you would have otherwise have missed. I believe in the power of people to facilitate change, both in their own lives and in the community at large. I believe that this power can be both positive or negative, but it’s nonetheless present and up to individuals or groups to harness it.
If you’re asking about a higher power, then no, I don’t believe in that. But I do believe that we’re all essentially meandering down our own road, trying to make the best of the situation that we’re in and attempting to carve out our own little piece of the metaphorical “Garden of Eden”.
I believe that you don’t necessarily have to believe “in” something, but more “for” something.
I believe in these things because I think they make my world a better place in which to live.
I’m really surprised to hear you say that you don’t believe. From the time I met you back in 2005, to various email correspondences we had in 2006, you were the one of the most spiritual people I’d ever met. I think you are just one of those people who isn’t suited to the “one size fits all” approach of organized religion. Belief has to come from within, whereas in a subject such as Christian Studies, you are more or less taught what to believe. That’s my take on it, anyway. It makes sense that you would be drawn to the qualities in which you feel you are lacking through art, etc, I don’t think that is at all unusual.
When was the last time I was happy?
Probably over the Queen’s Birthday weekend a couple of weeks ago, when I went with some very dear friends to the Hunter Valley for a couple of nights. The whole weekend was great, but the happiest part of it for me was not when we were out wine tasting or dining at fine restaurants, but when we came back to our cottage after dinner and were just chilling by the fireplace, chatting, playing cards and just generally taking the piss out of each other, as friends do! It was at that moment that I felt I was with people I loved. Why? Because they accepted me for who I am, and I them. And because of that, they became part of my “family” for the time that we spent together.
Have a good day!