A Matter of Faith

(Before reading this entry, please note that those of you who are staunch believers in a faith might be offended.  As my entry is not intended to offend, but inform and enlighten, I do understand entirely if you choose to ignore this post or even cut me off.  Anything I state below really is simply my thoughts on what I believe in now, and why I feel that the path I’ve chosen is the one right for me.)

“A religion is sometime a source of happiness, and I would not deprive anyone of happiness. But it is a comfort appropriate for the weak, not for the strong. The great trouble with religion – any religion – is that a religionist, having accepted certain propositions by faith, cannot thereafter judge those propositions by evidence. One may bask at the warm fire of faith or choose to live in the bleak certainty of reason- but one cannot have both.” – Robert Heinlein, Friday

While I was planning on writing something fun, with the latest events rocking the Catholic Church, from the revelations of the rapist priests of Los Angeles, to the sudden resignation of the top UK priest for sexual abuse, and now the resignation of the Pope due to a possible sex scandal and not the reasons so stated as poor health, I just couldn’t get my mind off of this.

I was born Catholic.  Raised to love the Church of God and revere the faith as something unknowable, unquestionable and the way to find hope in the afterlife.  Through my life as a Quebecois kid, I went from St-Ignatius to Loyola High without skipping a beat, serving the church in one way or another.  I genuinely loved being an altar boy, a choir singer, a defender of the Bible and would admittedly even read the Old Testament for fun in between my copies of the Amazing Spider-Man and Batman.  Heck, my favorite secret graphic novel as a child wasn’t compilations of the Avengers, or Star Wars, but the life and times of Jesus Christ.

But then I was introduced to Robert Heinlein, The Amazing Randi, Secular Humanism,  and the episode “Dead Run” from the 1980s Twilight Zone.  The seeds of doubt were planted.

With each passing year, I found myself questioning the lessons given to me, those that I was supposed to follow without question.  I found that gay people were not the spawn of evil (maybe of fashion and dance trends though), that women are very much the equal measure of men, and that there are far too many people that oppress their neighbours in the name of whatever deity was theirs to believe.

But more importantly, when I admitted I am pro-choice, I was confronted with a single question by a devout person, “What kind of Catholic are you?”  And at that moment, the last of any such illusions faded from my sight.  I wasn’t one. Not anymore.  Too many rapes of children by the clergy.  The Magdalene sisters.  The extreme right using the Bible to justify their beliefs, and picking which quotes best suited their purpose.  The coming of a Pope, a former Nazi, and someone who condoned and hidden the corruption of the church.  The truth behind Mother Teresa.  Father Ritter of Covenent House being a child abuser. Those and so many many more events, and I found that I was genuinely embarassed, even disgusted to have ever called myself a Catholic.

Since then, with the absence of belief in Catholicism, I found that the rest of the tenets of Christianity was not much further behind.  The same arguments given by religious men on the existence of a God, also pretty much applies to a Polytheism approach to religion.  There’s no more proof in the reasons for there being a God, than there is believing in a pantheon of Gods.  Why is a belief in God any more real than one of Hinduism (dating back to 5500 BC to today), or in Zeus/Jupiter (1000BC to 300AD) or Xenu (Scientology) for that matter?  Every argument given to me has been given and demanded and hounded and repeated to me from the other’s faith-based point of view.   But having have had that same point of view once, I’ve realized that such thoughts hold no more meaning to me now than the story of Little Red Riding Hood, a fairy tale meant for children.  And there I stood… a believer in the supernatural no longer.

Three years ago, when I finally had the bravery to state to my family that I had become an  Atheist, I wrote this in my former blog as my statement of belief.  As I read it now, I find that I believe this so much more in the present, than I ever could have as my prior self.  In these words, I have no regret, and only joy in the time to come:

“This is it… I believe in the joy of a sniffer of cognac when looking out into a lightning filled sky with Miles sweetly playing in the background. I believe in the laughter of my nephews when they play in the sun. I believe in the joyous taste of a superbly made foie gras across a piece of freshly made baguette. I believe in the rapture of having seen Crosby score that gold medal winning goal, or the determined satisfaction of a job well done when my friend Randy lifted the Grey Cup over his head. I believe that Tim Horton’s is superior to Dunkin’ Donuts any day, and McDonald’s will probably outlast all corporations by generations. “

“I believe in the silent contented grin of my sweetheart on a quiet night on the sofa, and the pure gaze of love between my brother David and his wife Jennifer as they sat across from me. I believe in the thrill of my paddle blade slicing through the water as the Red Eyes approach the finish line. I believe that I am a good man, and my moral choices are right for me, and no one has the right to impose their own morality on me, just as I don’t have the right to impose on them. I believe that when it matters most, I will be there for those who need me to be their knight.

And I believe that my friends and my family are my single greatest source of strength no matter the circumstances.

In the end, that’s all I really do need to believe in. What about you?”

Serendipity and Valentine’s Day

Serendipity means a “happy accident” or “pleasant surprise”; specifically, the accident of finding something good or useful while not specifically searching for it.”

“Jonathan Trager, prominent television producer for ESPN, died last night from complications of losing his soul mate and his fiancee. He was 35 years old. Soft-spoken and obsessive, Trager never looked the part of a hopeless romantic. But, in the final days of his life, he revealed an unknown side of his psyche. This hidden quasi-Jungian persona surfaced during the Agatha Christie-like pursuit of his long reputed soul mate, a woman whom he only spent a few precious hours with. Sadly, the protracted search ended late Saturday night in complete and utter failure. Yet even in certain defeat, the courageous Trager secretly clung to the belief that life is not merely a series of meaningless accidents or coincidences. Uh-uh. But rather, its a tapestry of events that culminate in an exquisite, sublime plan. Asked about the loss of his dear friend, Dean Kansky, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and executive editor of the New York Times, described Jonathan as a changed man in the last days of his life. “Things were clearer for him,” Kansky noted. Ultimately Jonathan concluded that if we are to live life in harmony with the universe, we must all possess a powerful faith in what the ancients used to call “fatum”, what we currently refer to as destiny.” – Dean in Serendipity

“You don’t just have the most incredible night of your life with a perfect stranger and leave it up to chance, do you??” – Jonathan in Serendipity.

It’s 12:25 friday, the night after Valentine’s.  One of my favorite movies, Serendipity, is on.  And with that, thoughts bring me back to Karen.

I’ve met a number of women over the years, each one having a certain je ne sais quoi that brought me to their door.  But of all of them, only one of them ever made me believe in fate.  Dear sweet giggling Karen, the nurse from Cleveland, who with her vivacious friend Kerry, combined with our sense of humour and a fair amount of alcoholic Hurricanes, made our poor haunted tour guide’s evening a misery, as we wandered through the streets of N’awlines’ French Quarter.

The chemistry then was just instant, and magical, and the alcohol had made me drop pretty much instantly all inhbitions. What could I say, I was naturally attracted to her from the start.    Kerry picked up on that right away, and I think Karen had felt a bit of the same, as we went to Pat ‘O Brian’s to enjoy the duelling pianos.  Kerry whispered to me, “go dance with her.”  I was a little shocked… but feeling so much like the shy schoolboy in front of a girl, I let the liquid courage flow and push me to take Karen’s hand and slow dance with her to the music of the duelling pianos.  It was … nice, but all too short.  As the tune played, all seemed right for those brief moments, and I wondered if I had met someone special.  And with the last dying note, the dance was over, and the schoolboy returned.

Later that night, I was escorting the girls to their hotel.  They were going to leave the following day on a cruise ship, and I asked for Karen’s email.  She gave it, and I gave mine, but tipsy as I was, I soon forgot it and awoke the next day kicking myself for my stupidity.  I thought that was the end of it…

The following year, just before Valentine’s or so, I caught the movie Serendipity.  It was an interesting film, where a series of fateful events brought a couple together, then apart, then together again years later.  And as I watched, I suddenly saw myself where John Cusack was.  It was absolutely mesmerizing, and I found myself wondering if Karen and I were the same.  Valentine’s was approaching, and what better time than then to take a total stab in the dark.  I called a few newspapers in Cleveland, the only thing I really remembered about Karen, and put an ad in EVERY ONE (all 4 or 5 at the time)  of them asking, “Nurse K, we met at the Fatted Calf, email me at…”  Some of the editors thought it was utterly romantic that I would go to these lengths.  I thought.. this would be my one shot, come what may.  At least I could say I tried…. and failed.  No responce.  Zip.  Zero.  But it was a wild shot in the dark, and I knew the odds were beyond outstanding.  I accepted it, and went back to life wondering from time to time of what could have been.

That should have been the end of it.  The years went by, and thoughts of Karen faded with each passing day.  New friends, new cities and adventures, and new loves soon took over my thoughts.  And then came Serendipity again…

It was 2004, 5 years after that magical night in New Orleans, and I was watching a repeat of Serendipity on the tube.  Over the years, it had become one of my favorite movies as the themes of love, destiny and fate all played itself before my eyes and strangely appealed to the chivalrous knight in me.  I was running it in the background when I had gotten that fateful email.  It was from a Karen… and I was wondering who could this be…

It was not just this Karen.. it was from THE Karen.  By a miracle of fate, a friend of hers was cleaning out her closet, and came across the newspaper with the ad.   I’m not quite sure what called her to notice a small classified ad from 5 years back, and what made her put 2 and 2 together and realize that it was meant for Karen, but it did… and it led to Karen and I calling one another 5 years later.

I won’t go any further of the events that followed.  The date in Florida together.  The calls and the emails.  The regular shipments of Bernard Callebaut chocolate to Cleveland.  All that and more, but in the end, it was a valiant effort and a meeting of the minds when time and space seemed to coincide between 2 people.  But needless to say for those of you who know me, you know I’m not with her.

But this was a time I took that leap of faith, and with that, found a lifelong friend who has found happiness with her husband and child.  Karen and I are friends now, and good ones I like to believe.

There’s been other events that were fate like, but everything that took place with Karen was the one time where the universe seemed to genuinely take a hand in my life and hers.  It was magic, and this week of all weeks, I look upon it fondly and with wonder and quiet contentment.