Monday, April 24, 2006

Do you pray?

Victor Nizovtsev

Sarah asked me a question a few weeks ago about belief, religion, faith -- we have these conversations a lot and I relish them. And in addition to Sarah's prompting, I've found that it's been a running theme in my life in general a lot lately. I've been thinking and talking a lot about spiritual philosophy and religious leanings. . . it feels right to follow through and write it all down. And, well, I promised Sarah I would. So, I am, belatedly, following through on a promise to a friend:

What I Think
I'm not overtly religious. I don't believe a spiritual path is something one must share, nor do I believe it's anyone's perogative to "convert" anyone else, or even begin to think their path is the right one and there are people who are "wrong".

I do believe, however, I am extremely fortunate to have found a path I can walk in safety and comfort. That I have found a set of beliefs that give me strength when I am weak and guidance when I am lost. I have found when I am conscious of my spiritual state and make an effort to cultivate a loving and peaceful way, I am in a far better place. My path is important to me and it is something I make time to pay attention to.

It's not important, really, what that path is to anyone but me.

What I have found, however, is that I am suddenly in a place where there are so many cultures and belief systems it's absolutely staggering. And I am thrilled to be able to live in such a place. Where a few blocks in one direction is a mosque, and in the other a synagogue; I must pass a dozen different christian churches on my way to class. I love this diversity. I find it amazing and wonderful. When I think about why I love it here, this is one of the main things that come to mind.

I have long been tremendously interested in other people's beliefs. Fostered by a father who constantly pushed my thought processes as a child, talking to me about bits of everything - greek myths, the Koran, even the definition of time. I was taught from an early age that knowledge breeds understanding, and that each person who walks this earth deserves to do so (without harm) as they believe is right. It is one of the greatest gifts given to me by my parents.

And aside from what my myriad of personal beliefs are, I do have one specifically that lately has been on my mind. And it - without a doubt - always makes me feel wonderfully warm and loved and protected.

And that is that the powers that have created this world and keep it turning have done a truly amazing and caring thing. We, as a race - as inhabitors of this world- have been given so very many paths to choose from. No one must go without. We have gods and godesses, saviors and messiahs, prophets and saints. We have giant stone cathedrals, small grassy knolls; governmentally recognized holidays, nights of prayer that go unnoticed. Talismans and statues, crosses and stars. We have been provided with so much to hold onto, if only we look to find what we need.

How amazing is that? How loving? How benevolent?

The power that turns the stars has also given us the choice as to how we want to turn our hearts. And amazingly, despite the all of the intricate and defining differences, they all have one thing in common: their message.

Love. Be kind. Live true.

Despite how or why or when or where- what book is read, what deity honored, it's just that simple.

And in this city of steel and stone, with its multiplex of customs, traditions and legacies, I feel blessed to know that each of us, in our own way has been provided for. It is no small gift.

"But we love trees, we love the snow, the friends we have, the world we share/ And you find magic from your God, and we find magic everywhere." Dar Williams


frazzledmom said...

profound - simple - true

I love parents that allow their chidren to think "outside" of their particular religious upbringing - knowledge is power. Power to learn, think, choose, act and feel out the world!

Fanstastic Post my friend.

~m said...

Thanks. :)

dżej said...

I absolutely agree with frazzledmom.
People should decide about their faith . The idea of forcing a child to go to the church just because his/her parents go there, is insane :/ I've been fighting with my parents for years and they are still not very happy with me not being catholic. But I think it's worth it, cause, like you said, everyone should find his own path :)

~m said...

And PS - I totally went to mass growing up. I was raised Catholic, but when I got old enough my parents supported the decision I made. Still do. Which I know can't be easy all the time.