Tuesday, January 15, 2008

My First Existential Crisis

I had my first existential crisis when I was eleven. I was looking out my window into the vast starlit sky, and for the first time in my life, I felt my breathtaking insignificance. I was alone, utterly alone in an indifferent universe and so I started to cry. I mean cry. Sob. Howl.

I knew I was making a scene but I cried, hoping that someone in my family would hear and come to my rescue. But my mother was working at her desk in her office and had barely looked up to grunt “good night” to me when I went off to bed. And my father, as usual, was drunk in the basement watching repeats of “All in the Family.”

I watched the hands on the dial of my electric clock click from 9:00 to 9:15 to 9:30. Finally, the door burst open. The silhouette of my mother loomed above me.

“What on earth are you crying about?” She snapped. The annoyance in her voice made me cringe with shame.

“I’m all alone.“ I sobbed.

“ All alone? What are you talking about?”

“I’m all alone in the universe,” I repeated. “There’s no one there. Infinite just keeps going on forever and ever and there’s no one there.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. You’re not alone. We’re right here. Now go to sleep and stop making a fuss.” She closed the door and quickly padded down the hall to her office in her bedroom slippers.

A few years later, I found my way into a fundamentalist cult which promised to hold the answers to 95% of your questions about life and God or your money back. At fourteen, I had found what I was looking for. It wasn’t until I was twenty-nine when I left the group, battered physically, sexually, and psychologically that I renounced any belief in God or answers. And once again, I was alone.

It’s been over twenty years since I left the cult and I still don’t know even 5% of the answers about life and God. When I first left The Way, I remember lying on the ground one summer night, looking up at the sky. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I wondered once again if Anyone was out there. Again, I felt totally alone. My fists clutched at clumps of dirt giving me the only solid thing I could hold onto - earth.

Then something happened. A falling star made it’s way across the sky like a delicate silver thread. I realized at that moment that I was not alone. I was part of something wonderful, something beautiful, something bigger than myself. I was part of a Mystery. Sometimes I call it "God" for lack of a better word. "God" to me is just shorthand for this Mystery. Sometimes I call it the "Universe" but mostly I don’t know what to call it. Mostly I just call it "the Mystery." It's comforting to have a name for it even if I don't know what "It" is.

1 comment:

h. said...

You can feed a person pork tenderloins and fennel but you can't (unless you're a torturer) make them take a bite, or like it, or digest it well. You can't give someone a god or a mystery or whatever and expect them to come out believing precisely as you do.
But we all need Something. I personally find my belief system is threatened every day--some people woudl say, "well then KNOW things, don't believe them." But I still insist that what I learned at 17 is still true, the "beginner's mind" concept that we don't know a damn thing, except that we don't know.
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