Apr. 10th, 2013

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Today is the first day of the rest of your life, as the saying goes.

And, well, I guess this is true in purely physical terms, if you consider life to be inherently progressive and linear, which from our perspective as human animals, it might as well be. And the point is that the habits you begin to establish here and now will shape how your life pans out from this moment.

So that's where I'm at. I've done some things today, and in the preceding weeks, that will have - hopefully - dramatic effects in the weeks and months to come.

But looking back, again in purely physical terms I am not the same person I was ten years ago, nor exactly the same person I was four years ago when I last wrote in this blog. Not just my attitudes but parts of my body have been replaced with new (if already weathered) parts since then. So it's an illusion, or so I have to keep telling myself, that I am actually tethered to my past - certainly I can't go back and change it, and it has shaped the me that is here and now, but that doesn't mean I can't wear it lightly.

Life is change, and until death brings the one final, immutable change, I keep moving forward, one moment at a time.
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AWAKENING

God loves each one of us 
As if there is only one of us to love

Or so St Augustine is said to have said.

Perhaps if such a god could love Augustine,
With all his bitter, uptight malice,
Surely it could love me too.

But I didn't really think such thoughts then;
Little girls don't, as a rule.

God, if he was there, would be something like my Dad -
only bigger and more powerful,
and inclined to be much more angry if I wasn't good.

So it was a comfort to know God loved me,
Because being good was hard.

But maybe being a better Catholic would suffice - 
you know, you only have to run faster than the dwarf.

But I didn't really think such thoughts then;
Little girls don't, as a rule.

They all looked so beautiful,
the saints in their pictures
And there was something about that expression of divine ecstacy
That almost made up for the virginity
That was the price of perfect sainthood.

But I didn't really think such thoughts then;
Little girls don't, as a rule.

So when the admonitions rang out -
"Don't do that - it's dirty, disordered."
I didn't really understand why,
But I knew it was wrong
Because they all said so,
the people I trusted to know such things - 
and anyway, it made Jesus cry.

So I tried not to think of such things;
Good Catholic young women don't, as a rule

When I finally made it out into the world
I still went to mass
For a while, anyway.
Missing it didn't seem so heinous
Once I'd got away with it sometimes.

As long as I kept myself reasonably pure
And only permitted certain liberties,
I wasn't really doing anything wrong, surely;
I could still take communion with a clear - if false - conscience
And sing in church;
Because that's what good Catholic young ladies do, as a rule.

And gradually I found that all those things I wasn't supposed to do,
Wasn't supposed to think,
Really weren't so strange and frightening
When real people did and thought them;
They were human, just like me -
Not devils
And not evil - how could they be?
They were my friends.

So I accepted them for who they were
And did my best not to judge them -
That's what good friends do, as a rule.

In time I learned that things weren't necessarily 
As I'd always assumed they were;
That all the old stories might mean something different
Than what I had been schooled to believe they meant.

So I read them again with new eyes,
New ways of seeing, new ways of thinking
And I opened my mind to a new understanding -
That's what real scholars do, as a rule.

And over the years, life began to make sense
As thought, belief and experience finally resolved their long estrangement
Until at last that glorious day dawned
When I threw off all the old, possessive gods
And embraced the world without the gaudy make-up,
Hardened myself to truth and harsh reality,
Began to face the changes life inevitably brings
Without the mythical safety net - 
That's what good atheists do, as a rule.

But still the yearning slept, unacknowledged,
The yearning for something more
Than molecules and forces,
An indifferent universe
Blind to our suffering
And death...
Death, the hardest change of all.

But eventually, like all philosophers do, as a rule,
I found I could accept the things I could not change,
Even the loss of those I had loved -
Just because I'd never see them again, that didn't mean they never were.

And slowly I came to understand
That the universe is not a hostile place - 
How could it be?
It doesn't care enough to hate us.

And maybe, in the end, I don't want the something more -
The something always promised by that god who loves us all,
But never enough to show itself;
Maybe it's enough that only a few other imperfect mortals love me;
Maybe what I have right now is all I'll ever need.
If there's no great beyond to which we might aspire,
No all-powerful deity to lay on the demands and expectations
And all the hoops we have to jump through
To show ourselves worthy of eternity;
Then it really doesn't matter -
Here, now, this moment is all
And everything;
And so I embrace it -
That's what enlightened people do, as a rule.

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