Monday, November 2, 2009

November 2

Busy week with little to say about my actual liver situation... the only thing new to report is that I itch all the time, which is part of the progression, so that bites. But, overall, I'm feeling okay this week. Eating better, still sleeping like shit.

My sister posed an interesting question to me the other day, and I've had to give it some thought: "Are you okay with the alternative outcome?" (Meaning am I okay with dying.)

Well, not really, if you want to know the truth. Who is, ultimately? Mopey goth kids and Cure fans? I doubt it. Terminally ill patients who are in a lot of pain? People in this world who have simply witnessed too much war, famine, pain, and hardship to go on? Certainly so, but that's only to escape the horrid reality that they exist in. The truth is, this world can be a wonderful place, and it would be a shame to leave it before we get to experience all it has to offer in a lifetime.

Ultimately, we don't want to die because we still don't know if there's anything waiting for us after death. We have to, with as much conviction and enthusiasm as we can muster, subscribe to that old, confusing, frustrating concept: Faith.

Faith in what? One set, prescribed religious system that tells us specifically what to believe? Faith in one God, or another, or another? Wouldn't it be so much easier for us to just have some proof?

Well, if that were the case, we wouldn't have to do any of the hard work ourselves, would we? Then it would be dangerously easy to subscribe to whatever Dogma was suggested to us. The terrible truth is that each one of us has to develop a personal connection with God, or whatever you want to call it. I have given up on trying to squeeze my concept of God and spirituality into my tiny, earthbound brain. It's a bad idea. Ultimately, any religion is a product of the culture and age in which it was birthed. Assigning a face, gender, or name to God is sort of a silly idea... it's a bit like trying to pour the entirety of the world's oceans into a Sippee cup and saying "Hey, this is some great Kentucky Bourbon! Try it!"

How we interpret God, in its purest and most benevolent form, therefore, is pointless. How we manifest those beliefs on earth and amongst each other, is however, everything!!! And ultimately, that's why I still am able to call myself a Christian. Because I do believe that aspect of compassion and simplicity is what Jesus was all about. I think in essence, he was trying to bring light to these same concepts... it doesn't matter what we think God is or isn't, as long as we love one another. Period. End of story.

Does that mean I feel I need to sit in a church to connect with those deeper realizations? Nope. As a recovering Catholic, I still go back occasionally for the comfort found in the old rituals, etc. But the church doesn't hold a special key for one to be able to access God.

I digress... back to the point. Faith. Not to leave anyone out here... even in talking to self-proclaimed "Atheists" over the years, I've posed this difficult line of questioning:

A: "Do you think that maybe there is some force in the universe that drives things forward, that unifies everything, that connects everything?

B: "Of course" (Basic quantum physics)

A: "Do you believe that said force can consist of a positive or even intelligent energy that can also exist in, and inspire us?"

B "Sure."

A: "Would you be comfortable not having to label that energy in any way, shape, or form, because our noggins are just too teeny?"

B: "Guess so."

Oops. Therein lies the problem. Having said that, I'm certain that I may never have encountered any "true Atheists," who really don't believe in squat. We're born, we die, that's it. A lucky collection of chemical reactions and mere brain functioning.

But that's really quite an easy path to take, isn't it? For whatever reason, people may become atheists from bad experiences within the church, etc. But that should be where the journey begins, not ends. Tell me you've searched every corner of the world, and yourself to boot, and that you've not let personal tragedies cloud your objectivity, and you still don't believe in anything? Then I'd like to hear what you have to say.

It took me many, many years of fighting and struggling with God to finally come to my own peace, and develop my own personal relationship with my spirituality. I spend my years as an angry young man disproving everything that had ever been taught to me. I looked into other philosophies, other religions, certain shortcuts to ecstatic experience, heated lunchtime arguments with Theology professors, anything to try to dig up some kind of proof that a God really existed.

And I finally got my proof, face down in a field out in the middle of nowhere, throwing up blood. My first real experience getting sick from this disease. By the time they got me into the hospital, I had lost 1/3 of my blood volume. I'm told they lost me for almost a minute. Did I see a great white light, or my Grandpa welcoming me home with his polka accordion? I didn't see shit, actually. But I woke up to a beautiful new life the next day, I literally felt like a new person, as if some demons had been exorcised from my broken body, and it just so happened to be Easter Sunday. I'm not trying to say this makes me special, or more connected to God, or anything like that. Because I'm none of those things. In fact, for years afterward, I made the mistake of thinking that this was the case, that I had in some way been chosen or marked by God to do something amazing, and that it would be a breeze for me to do these things. When I got sick again, I started to realize that wasn't the case, and I lost sight of those original revelations and turned to an empty (sometimes fun, sometimes nightmarish) number of years wandering the lonelier parts of my soul with a bottle of booze. More recently, and in getting sick again (third time's a charm!) I've re-discovered the strength within the sickness, and have now realized that the personal gift of proof was just a small token from God to me, and nothing else. To treat it as more, or less, than what it was is selfish and foolish on my part.

Again, faith: Where do we go when we die? Well, all I can say is that again, God and the Universe are one, and if we look at the basic laws of physics, we know this to be true: Energy can nether be created, nor destroyed. And isn't that all the soul, or consciousness is, ultimately? You decide.

And finally, back to my sister's original question: "Are you okay with dying?"

My reply: "Fuck no!"


  1. Hey Pat!

    It's Chris Diaz here again. As you probably have figured out by now, I'm an atheist. I mostly agree with what you wrote, but I take issue with a couple of things.

    I arrived at this label (atheist) simply because I explored various spiritual paths when I was younger (Southern Baptist, Catholic, Islam, Unitarian Universalist, Wicca) and in all of them I found that I felt absolutely nothing. So maybe atheism is a "fallback" category for me. Who knows? But it was most definitely NOT an "easy" path.

    But for me anyway, atheism isn't just a disbelief in God (although that's a large part of it), but also it's a rejection of organized religion. I firmly believe that religion has had a mainly pernicious influence on the development of civilization and human knowledge. In other words, it's bad and it's holding us back as a species.

    As far as the larger questions of where we came from, where we are going, and who's in control of it all, I find that they don't provide very much meaning to me. They don't affect my day-to-day existence. I think it's largely up to the individual to shape and define his/her meaning. It's nothing external. I guess in that sense I'm an existentialist.

    As far as the afterlife, I would describe myself as agnostic. It would be great if it's true and we get to see beloved relatives, friends, and pets and do whatever the hell (pun not intended) we want to do, but I have my doubts that it's that easy. I mean, what is the purpose? I suspect that death is like when you go to sleep for 8 solid hours and don't dream--just blackness and an absence of conciousness. Only with death, the blackness and absence of consciousness is permanent. I hope I'm wrong about this, but my rational brain tells me I'm right.

    Anyway, sorry to bogart your blog! It is an interesting post, but I just wanted to share this atheist's perspective. :-)

    Chris Diaz

  2. Love reading your writing, Pat. I don't agree with everything, but you know that's OK with me. Nothing like a heaping dose of life to make you look faith straight in the eye, huh? It's when we are at the very bottom, when we think we can't go on anymore that we are where He wants us to be: emptied of ourselves and totally reliant on Him. At least that's my conclusion and the Main Thing that keeps me going and gives me strength to persevere.

    "....'My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.' So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me." 2 Corinthians 12:9, New Living Translation.

    Don't get me wrong; I don't think this verse means that we should all walk around bragging about our crap. I just think it means give up trying to handle it all. That's God's job. Try praying that great one word prayer, "HELP!!!" Love you, Pat and praying for you! Miss you! Love always, Angel (Nye) Dodson

  3. It's been nearly 15 years since I first honestly struggled with the issue of faith. Since about that time that you and I first crossed paths, actually. And on matters of religion I've run the gamut from the emptiness that Diaz describes, back to the religion of my childhood, and back again.

    As for reason, I spent much time in college and thereafter in pursuit of it. Enough that they gave me a minor it it. (in Philosophy anyway.) Diaz describes a lifelong pursuit of finding religion with no result. Mine was the opposite experience of trying for years to disprove it, disavow it, and ultimately discard it. Oh did I try hard. And despite my efforts, in the end I landed very near to where I started.

    There are those who have spent much time developing arguments against faith and I don't have the patience to, in a few lines on the internet, try to lay out my experience of over a decade. There isn't any point, really. I just hate to see people liken faith to organized religion. It's like one who would disavow eating apples because he knew a dishonest orchard owner.

    There is a starting point on faith, and Voltaire said it best. "Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe."

  4. Hi Pat -

    We never really knew each other but have several mutual friends. Mike Coulon pointed me to this site. I was at some of the stranger happenings at Greer back in the day. :-)

    I am so sorry to hear of your liver disease. Thank you for having the courage to write about it, and for your transparency as you wrestle with your own faith issues.

    I, too, have spent years running from and eventually back to my own faith. I thought I would share with you one of my favorite quotes as it seemed relevant to your post:

    "There lives more faith in honest doubt,
    Believe me,
    than in half the creeds."
    --Alfred, Lord Tennyson

    I will certainly pray for your healing and recovery, or for a transplant, or whatever else you would like for me to pray. I will also pray for peace for you. I live in Austin if you need anything, or just an ear to listen.

    Grace and peace to you,

  5. Boy, do I ever feel like an ass for asking you that question! Why didn't you say "Fuck, no!" instead of...."Yeah....I guess...I mean...what choice do I have?"

    You gotta fight for your right to party, man. I love you.

  6. And, for the record, if I could give you mine, if that were allowed and I didn't have a kid to raise, I would love to give you more years. I pray that someone can. Peace.

  7. Wow, guys! These are all great perspectives. I feel like a heel for just realizing this morning that each blog I post has a "comments" section. Damn computers!

    Chris, I'm sorry if I implied that the Atheist's path is an "easy" out. Certainly it is not. Your points are all valid and important. I agree with you about organized religion for the most part. However, again I'll point out that religion really works for some people. For others it doesn't. For me, like you, I have a hard time getting around the harm that organized religion has caused throughout history. But for the individual, there's nothing to suggest that either experience is less valid than the other, because again, we're talking about a personal connection with our spirituality here.

    And I don't think religion and spirituality should ever be mistaken for each other. That's why I'm not comfortable labeling "God" one way or another.

    I would have to agree with my old pal Coulon in the notion that associating faith with organized religion is pointless as well. In fact, it's faith that keeps me aligned with my spirituality DESPITE organized religion.

    Lastly, Kirk: Nice to hear from you! Had no idea you were in the Austin area. Thanks for the prayers.

    And on that subject: Is there really any difference between praying for someone and sending good thoughts or well wishes? It's all positive energy. Like Angel said, when we realize that we are overwhelmed and ask for "help" something else takes over, we tap into something more powerful entirely. Is this God? Or a hidden layer of our own subconscious power? And again, is there a point in trying to label it?

    So to dear Chris and some other friends who have said they aren't the praying type, but want to send good thoughts my way, I say: Keep it coming! I believe that if it's done with love, there's virtually no difference.

    Love to all,

  8. Regarding prayer, yes, I believe there is a difference. Prayer for someone to a deity is asking or petitioning for something on their behalf. It involves an actual interaction with a living being, and an intervention from that being. I am not sure what is meant by "positive energy" and "sending good thoughts" from one person to another. I do know that both are expressions and acts of love and good intention.

    I'm actually in South Austin too, been here for about 11 years now. Love it here.