What is life? I remember a dream I had maybe in the 80’s or 90’s. Anyway, been awhile. I was still a young man and I was searching for the truth. I was a “Christian” and yet I was also very skeptical of Christian and other just so stories. But, I was trying. I read the bible and listened to the preachers and mixed it in with skeptical authors and new age authors. After all I really wanted to know the truth. Life was hard and a little lonely at times. It was also wide open and “tomorrow” everything was going to come together. So, I was searching and waiting and reading and living.
My uncle by marriage was a father figure to me growing up. For some reason we were at the Altoona/Walnut Grove, Alabama Cemetery. Generations of his family and my family and small town folks were buried there. My uncle was not a “sensitive” type. He cussed like a sailor but, of course he was a sailor USN WW2 and proud of it. He hunted and blasting a small furry critter and throwing it in a pot to eat was not a moral dilemma for him. He was born country and hunted and fished all of his life. He would mockingly but kind of fondly call me Professor because I was a bookworm.
But, on this particular day he looked out at the cemetery and said “I wonder where they are.” I don’t remember what I said in reply. I had a friend from back in those days and a little before. He was younger and wilder and was a really good musician. By the way it was hard to be wilder than I was but some folks were. But, this particular friend was even more out of place than I was in this small Northeast Alabama dried up coal mining community. He was flamboyant and I remember one of his favorite lines when people would get on his case. “Fuck em if they can’t take a joke.” I loved that line and honestly? I still do. I think it sometimes now when people are butt hurt over something I do or say. I can’t say it much since I’m now in my mature 60’s but I think it. At work, at play, in social events or even online I think “Fuck em if they can’t take a joke.” It’s a very rock and roll attitude and it’s kind of like turning up my stereo in my old truck and blasting Foghat or Queen or even Kiss. Watching the looks even from young people as this little old dude is rocking out in the vehicle beside them.
But, anyway my friend said years later as he was dying and we were talking on the phone. I hadn’t seen him in years and even though he told me he was going to die my brain just wouldn’t accept that. The guy with the shoulder length hair and the wicked smile and the killer guitar wasn’t going to die. That was silly. But, I was seeing him in my mind’s eye and not the older man with cancer ravaging his body. But, we talked about what life was. He had gone from being raised Christian to becoming a rabid atheist and now had come back to a more spiritual outlook on life. We talked about reincarnation and possibilities and old times. He invited me to share a doobie (marijuana) if I ever got up to Birmingham or we could even meet in Altoona or Gadsden. But, one thing he said was “I like to be.”
I have now gone through my own medical trauma and in the long run I don’t know how my health and life will play out. But, right now I’m good. Right now my heart beats steady in my chest and my lungs inhale and exhale. I have a new Aortic Valve (pig and cow) I do still like a good steak or a ham sandwich but I try to make sure I don’t forget to give a little thanks in my own mind when I eat these days or when I catch a great big wonderful lung filling breath.
But, I like to breathe. I like for my heart to beat and my body to not tire so quickly. Mostly, I like to be. God knows “I like to be.”
One reason I’m not an atheist is that it has no purpose. I know the humanist arguments and if they give you peace then peace be upon you. But, for me a pointless race to personal oblivion means the universe is at its core insane at worse and just not all that important at best.
One reason I’m not a fundamentalist Christian is that a big daddy in the sky who puts a little naked ape on a planet and then turns to a being of light and high intelligence and says: Listen I’ll make you a deal. See those little beings down there on earth? I’m going to send you down there and I know that will make you good and angry. If you can fool them then you can burn them in a pit of fire for eternity. But, if they figure it out and say the sinners prayer before they die then they win. Also, some will win the sperm lottery and some will be born into horrific poverty and slavery and even be born in Nazi Germany and be called Jews. Believe me you will have plenty of carnage to enjoy then.
So, no religion is missing something. Common sense for one thing. So, I’m not an atheist and I’m not a fundi so what am I?
I started this blog talking about my search around the 80’s and early 90’s. Around that time and it may have been the mid to late 90’s but I think it was closer to the mid to late 80’s. I don’t know. I’m getting old. “Hey you kids. Get off my lawn!”
But, anyway I had this dream. But, before I tell about the dream I’d like to say something else about why I’m not an atheist or a secular humanist.
I’ve had dreams in my life that have come true. I have heard some people with lots of letters after their names. Phd, Msw,Bsw,Clinical this and that and even crusty old magicians and philosophers who say that “science says seeing the future is impossible since it hasn’t happened yet.” I’ve heard “well, if you have physic powers then tell me what I ate for lunch or how much money is in my pocket. This is like the old childhood taunt. Stop me if you’ve heard this one. “ Can God do anything?” Why yes, says the little church kid which would have been me. “Okay, if God can do anything then can he make a rock so heavy that he can’t lift?” Mind of church kid blown! If he can do anything then he has to be able to make a rock so big that he can’t lift it. If he can’t make one that he can’t lift then he can’t do everything. But, if he can make one that even he can’t lift then he can’t do everything. It’s silly and theologically silly and misses the larger point of being and faith and hope but it is effective in a very simplistic knocking down strawmen type way.
So, having had dreams on more than one occasion where I knew something before it happened. Not often but some over my life. Having had a vision or two or three and even having interaction with others in lucid dreams I knew that the materialistic view of life was wrong. But, on the other hand I didn’t know which view was right. It only takes one white crow to prove to yourself that all crows are not black. I’ve had more than one white crow in my life. But, I can’t tell you what that means for you or even what it ultimately means for me. Except, it gives me hope.
I went to an ARE symposium in Montgomery, Alabama in the early 80’s. ARE is the organization of the late Edgar Cayce. If you are interested in him then you can google him and Association of Research and Enlightenment. I’m not pushing their agenda. I’m just providing information and I don’t want to bore you with details of a person or organization that you may not even care about. But, anyway I took my little born again Christian self to Montgomery and attended this seminar on reincarnation. I was searching and this was part of my search. A young woman walked up to me. In those days I was a young man so this was not entirely out of place. Anyway, as she came up I have a thought in my head “she’s going to say I was a warrior” talking about herself. Now this was a very attractive uh, full figured brunette and for me to have that thought while she was walking towards me was a little odd. But, then again I wasn’t at Cherry Street Baptist Church or my grandmothers Church of God of Prophecy so it was an odd vibe anyway. She walks up and say’s “I was a warrior in my last life.” We talked a little and she said she was also attending by herself. I told her that people at church would call me tampering with the devil and she said people at Auburn University (where her husband was a professor) would also frown on her attending and so both of us were kind of out of our social element.
Anyway, just another little signpost along the road to Enlightenment or Shambala or oblivion or bliss. But, anyway along that time I was really interested in the concept of reincarnation. I have some spotty memories from my childhood on that may or may not be part of a past life. But, I don’t know and really at this stage I’m open to the possibility that reincarnation is as real and natural as physical evolution but I honestly don’t know.
Earlier I mentioned a dream I had from back in the day. This dream is now several years old and I wish I had written it down when it happened. As my wife Cindy says “memory is not an exact science.” But, here goes to the best of my recollection.
I’m in a really red landscape. Some years later I would see pictures of the planet Mars on TV and think that the landscape I was walking in was similar looking. I look back at my body and it’s safely in bed. I realize there is a figure beside me. He has a robe and I know that he can tell me everything I will ever want to know about my life. God, the meaning of life and what happens when we die. All of it. So, I ask “What is the dream?” Which I know means what is the answer to all my questions about existence. He says “you ask too much.” I feel extremely sad at this. I want to know and I really have a right to know don’t I? Do I? But, I have a tear running down my cheek. I wake up and there is an actual tear running down my cheek.
Since then I’ve told this dream to different people with different answers depending on their own religious belief. Some said I was talking to the devil. Some say I was talking to an angel. Some said God wouldn’t withhold that answer from me. But, I think they were talking about Christianity so they already thought they knew the answer I guess. Some said it was just my own mind making it all up because it wasn’t logical otherwise.
But, the dream has had a very big effect on my life. Since then I’ve felt even stronger that this life is a pale reflection of a larger and more real reality. I think of this life as “The Dream.”
I really don’t think it matters what you believe or don’t believe as much as it matters how you treat other people along the way. How you treat all creatures along the way. My only real religion these days is “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.” All the rest is window dressing. All the rest is a dream. I pray and hope to wake up on the other side of it one day. Maybe one day soon. But, I hope it’s years from now. Many years from now.
One reason I don’t fear fire and brimstone is that I honestly believe I have been watched over my whole life. I’m very precious to somebody and I believe that is the point of the dream. So, even if I mess up and die in fear or vulgarity or if I die without saying the sinners prayer with my last breath. I have so much belief in my source, in my God that I honestly feel that as long as I’m me. I Am. That he will find me.
That’s why “I like to be.” As long as “I BE” I’ll be safe in this (as a gracious lady once said) Journey Securely Bound.
7Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast…Psalm 139