Marilyn's Musings

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Monthly Archives: July 2011

A soul in search of

For many years, I was a practicing Catholic. Didn’t think about it much. My parents were Catholic, I went to Catholic grade school, so hey, I’m Catholic. From the cradle to the grave, forever and ever amen.

Then, I found myself going through a very long period of spiritual struggle.

I  thought my childhood faith might be the culprit–that it was lacking, so I explored other religions from Hindu, Zen, Deism, to other Christian faiths to Jews for Jesus.

Feeling no satisfaction, somehow incomplete, the questioning began.

Is there a God? Is this all hype so we can face our deaths without fear of total oblivion? Yes, Jesus was a historical figure–there is proof enough of that, but was he divine?

For a long time, I considered myself to be a spiritual agnostic. Part of me believing in the Whole Plan while another part of me struggled with the lack of logic to it all.

Now, it’s not like all of a sudden, a light came shooting out of the sky on my own personal road to Damascus with The Voice booming out at me, telling me what I need to know and believe, but lately, I’ve been pondering this more deeply.

Bear with me next as I am really not marching off on a tangent.

As far as I know, we are the only creatures that have any hint of their own mortality. About the only creature other than humans that I can think of that honor their dead are elephants. They will mill around one of their own who has died, protect it. If they come across the bones of another elephant, even if not one of their own herd, they seem to respect the remains by how they react.  Still, that isn’t the same as realizing that one day, we are all going to die.

Why is that? What sets humans apart from every other animal, even the highly intelligent dolphins? I can’t believe it’s some kind of evolutionary accident.

For myself, it’s been a struggle. I sometimes wish I had a blind and comfortable, unquestioning Faith. But no. These past ten years or more in particular have been full of questions and wavering back and forth. Looking, searching, not feeling comfortable in other Churches, not drawing the same peace I once felt in the Church of my childhood. Feeling at times that all organized religion is hype. Other times, that Jesus wouldn’t want it this way. And other times still, that perhaps it is a flaw in my own soul or character.

This is what they call a Spiritual Desert.  St. John of the Cross wrote a poem and treatise about it called The Dark Night of the Soul. Mother Teresa is said to have undergone this through a great part of her life, nearly to her death–the questioning, the wondering, despite remaining faithful to her prayer life and her Faith.

Lately, though, I think I’m entering another phase. It’s called the Crossroads–at least, that is what it is to me.

I am reconsidering my options. I have a strong sense of God and instinctively feel that the Master Plan is to have an eternity of happiness and that there is an afterlife. Do I necessarily believe in an eternal Hell? I’m not so sure about that. I tend to believe we experience Hell in the here and now through our choices while here on Earth. Do I ascribe to an organized religion? Not quite yet. I think the simplicity and directness of the original Message of Jesus has become so distorted and altered down through the years that it has become barely recognizable, so I tend to shy away from becoming the part of a congregation.  My gut feeling is the  message has changed so much that Jesus himself would hardly recognize it. But who knows? Maybe I will someday as I continue on my quest.

Those of you who have great faith who read this may feel horrified to know how I feel and what I am struggling with. Those of you who firmly believe there is no God, no hereafter, may feel disappointment or disdain regarding my re-evaluating and re-questioning in favor of God.

So, my summertime  reading includes some of the great pieces of literature associated with various faiths, including the aforementioned St. John of the Cross’ The Dark Night of the Soul and The Confessions of St. Augustine.

Simply put, I am a soul in search of.

Reflecting on the day after my birthday

Pocket watch, savonette-type.

Time marches on

Many years ago, I thought anything over the age of twenty was ancient. Funny how that works. When I hit twenty, the definition of ancient kept going up. When I was twenty, thirty five or forty looked old. Now here I am, on the last year of my 5th decade and on the cusp of my 6th, and I’m finally at a place in my life where I’m not so sure what old is anymore.

Now, some of this might be lost on much younger people, but I’m sure most people at some point in middle age start “getting” what I and many others have said before me. I say “start getting” because I was at a spot somewhere around forty when what I’ve heard before started to make sense.  But, it wasn’t until I approached fifty that I truly bought into it and understood it.

We’ve heard the saying, “You are only as old as you feel.” Well, you are as old as you are, chronologically speaking, and there is nothing wrong with that.

I am always puzzled by people who are afraid of revealing their age. To me, most people can tell within five or so years what a person’s age is.  So, it’s all relative. When a person is forty, maybe someone will think they are thirty five.  When someone is fifty, the guess is usually around forty five on the “looking younger” side of the scale. It’s ironic, though, that some people, who would have been very distressed at the age of thirty if someone thought they looked thirty five, are quite pleased when someone says they look thirty five when they are forty. I’m no exception if someone says I look younger than my chronological age, whether it’s true or they are just being nice.  I think that’s true for everyone. But, I don’t hide my age. It’s rather pointless.

So, here I am at 59. By today’s standards, I’m not really old but “upper middle age” whatever that means. We keep upping the limit on middle age and the government wants to as well with keeping us in the workforce as long as possible before drawing social security.

But, that’s another commentary so I will get back on track.

I think that this is an age where I finally realize that there truly is no magic moment when a person is absolutely mature, absolutely holds all the wisdom  they are ever going to have, are at the absolute peak of their mental and emotional development, despite what Erikson and his stages of psychological development has to say about it.

Erikson has it right and has it wrong.

His theory is a good blueprint, but that’s all that it is. Erikson didn’t take into consideration that people are not traveling a linear line as they age. Some people don’t get started having their families until they are much older. Some people don’t retire. Some people retire at relatively much younger ages than their sixties. I think the changes in society and how we are and what we do tend to blur and it isn’t as linear or as rigid as it once was.

Now, getting back to that saying:  “You are only as old as you feel”  does have some truth to it. It’s not just something we say to someone who is having the blues over their birthday. You can’t deny your chronological age, but  if you feel young in how you approach life, in your zest for life, no matter how a body “tells” its age, you are young.

So, here I am at 59. I don’t know it all, I don’t pretend to have all the wisdom of the world or all the answers. But, I still can pull a few pranks, I still enjoy music that spans not only my age group but across the board up and down. I’m still learning and always will be discovering things about people, this world, and life in general. I will  still have desires and goals and I’ve come to realize that will never change.