When I was a kid, I asked my mother if there was a god and she laughed and said no. I guess that was supposed to be the end of the conversation. But I wanted to know more. I said, “But Mom, a lot of people believe in god. I mean, a lot of people.” My mother said, “People who believe in god are all dumb.”
That was the end of the conversation. In my house, there was nothing worse than being dumb. I mean, I guess it was assumed that one was not supposed to be cruel. But still, dumb was the ultimate insult, over mean, over ugly, over arrogant. When my parents called someone dumb, and they called a fair amount of people dumb, I was always like, “Oh no, that poor dumb person! They must be just useless!” Often, that person was a churchgoer. I knew that because we lived in a very small town and all the churches were right on the main drag — if someone was a regular attendee, you’d eventually see them walking into one of said churches.
I don’t think my parents are terrible people. I think a secular humanist upbringing that looks down on churchgoing and belief in god as mere superstition bordering on Neanderthalism is very common. In fact, I’d say about fifty percent of me still sees things that way. And then there is the 50 percent of me that believes in God, or something.
Now I don’t go to church. I do yoga. (I just capitalized yoga, and then went back and un-capitalized it, because I was like, oh god, capitalizing yoga is dumb, and who wants to be dumb, because that is the worst thing you could be, and what if my parents yell at me?) And the kind of yoga that I do, Kundalini Yoga, is pretty god-y. It’s not strict in the sense that there’s this one god or Jesus and laws that you have to obey. But I have come to believe, or at least part of me has come to believe, in some kind of a force. I don’t know what that force is. But I do stuff in my daily life that indicates I actually believe there is something going on on this planet/universe/solar system that could not be fully explained in the pages of the New York Times.
Such as, I get up early in the morning and recite something called Jap Ji, which — as it contains the lines, “By His Command, souls come into being; by His Command, glory and greatness are obtained” — I would say fairly safely lies within the realm of religion. I recite certain mantras and do certain meditations every day and believe that they bring me peace and prosperity. Every year, I go to a solstice celebration in New Mexico and do a three-day, all-day meditation which is supposed to essentially power-wash my subconscious.
Now part of me pretends I don’t really “believe” in any of this stuff. Like, if I am talking to certain people, I will admit that I have these practices and rituals in my life but I will say that they are really there for some kind of structure, and that, haha, no I don’t actually think that reciting certain words can lead to a certain outcome, because what kind of lunatic would believe that?
Well. This lunatic. I mean, would you actually get up at four o’clock in the morning and spend 20 minutes reciting something if you didn’t kinda maybe believe in some form of god? No, you would not.
But then, the part of me that tells people I don’t really believe in the sort of god/magic/unseen/unproven aspect of the kind of yoga I practice isn’t lying. I mean, I am also that person who grew up the way I grew up, believing that believing was stupid, and to just all of a sudden say, OK, yes, there is a force in the universe greater than the will of man would be like, such a fuck you to my family, my culture, even to myself. It would be like saying that everything that makes me ME is wrong.
You see my dilemma.
There’s got to be a lot of people like me, who can’t imagine believing in something they can’t prove exists, but also can’t imagine entirely not believing. I find being of two minds annoying, but for now, there seems to be no solution. I keep going to yoga. To the people there, I am one of them. To the people outside, I am one of them. Maybe it will just be like that forever.
I keep thinking one day something will happen that will convince me to come down on one side or the other, but so far, my experience of life is such that there is much to suggest there is something out there greater than man, but also much to suggest that there isn’t.