Excerpts from The Journals Of A 21st Century Schizoid Man:
I finally broke up with Donna. It wasn’t easy. She took it well. We decided to just be friends, but leaving a lover behind never works that easy. She had read the book Eat Pray Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert. She just happened to leave it behind in my house. I found it on my coffee table.
I began to wonder—Did she leave it there on purpose. Was this some kind of sign from God himself that I should read this book?
Originally I resisted the book. It claims to be spiritual, and yet to me it seemed to be nihilistic or just plain self absorption. It is all about the self.
For those who have not read Eat Pray Love: One Woman's Search for Everything across Italy, India and Indonesia; Elizabeth Gilbert tells the story of a woman who travels across the sea after a divorce. Most people can’t afford to just fly off to Europe and go on an eating binge. She studies eastern religions in India, and eventually takes on a lover in Indonesia.
I opened it and there it was in black and white. The inspiration I was supposed to see;
“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.”
I decided to look into the next phase of Gilbert’s the book; “pray.” If I remember right, she looks to finding spirituality in India. I read the most profound parts of the book and here is what she said:
“Look for God. Look for God like a man with his head on fire looks for water.”
“There’s a crack (or cracks) in everyone…that’s how the light of God gets in.”
“I want God to play in my bloodstream the way sunlight amuses itself on the water.”
But the first problem here is that my original religion failed me as far as I am concerned. So how do I find God if my original religion failed me?
I was a Catholic until my 30s. Maybe it was having Pope John XXIII reform the church as I grew up in Catholic Schools. The Pope wanted the church to focus more on charity and caring about each other than the dogmatic ritualism that had long been a part of Catholicism. The church seemed progressive. We had a liberal democrat, John F Kennedy as president and he was a Catholic. Pope John XXIII had died. Two popes later
But things changed by the time I got to high school. Pope John XXIII had died. Two popes later we had John Paul II. He turned the church in the opposite direction and things slowly went downhill. The first problem I had was pre-marital sex. I didn’t think that alone was enough of a reason to quit the church. I had always been something of an agnostic, having my doubts about the existence of God, but I felt I was being optimistic.
In my youth I agreed with the church’s stand on abortion, but that changed as I got older. As time went on I found more and more reasons I disagreed with the Pope and the Catholic Church in general. They wanted us to vote “pro-life.” The local Catholic Church in Wichita became increasingly vocally ant-gay. Then there were Pope John Paul II’s trips to Nicaragua and his nasty attitude toward one of Nicaragua’s main Catholic Church official, Ernesto Cardenal. Cardenal was a strong supporter of the new Sandinista government. He followed the policies of “liberation theology” which stressed defending the poor and their rights. I was a solid supporter of the Sandinista led government and their Marxist leaning revolution, so I really didn’t like the Popes attitude. I also felt that liberation theology was one of the main redeeming values of the Church.
The final straw was the revelations that I read in Time Magazine, Feb. 24, 1992, that Pope John Paul II worked with CIA and Ronald Reagan in Poland, to support the Solidarity movement and other efforts to bring down Eastern Europe. I was not a fan of the Soviet satellite nations of the Warsaw Pact. What bothered me was that I hated Reagan, the CIA and I realized that all the propaganda that the church had moved away from being a political force in the world was an outright lie.
I knew there were corrupt popes, that the church had acted as a political theocracy and its leaders where tyrants. I knew the Church collaborated with various fascist governments in Europe during World War II. But now I realized the church was hopelessly linked to the ruling classes of the world and a natural enemy of poor and working people everywhere.
By the time the local Catholic Church started to demand its members vote “pro-life” it no longer mattered. I had completely divorced myself from both Catholicism and Christianity.
Even though I was not a devout atheist as most Marxists are, I now put more faith in the Marxist beliefs of supporting working class movements and programs to help elevate the poorer classes.
So I decided I would look for God in a new age religion. I chose Druidry. It was a mysterious religion—an early one that pre-dated Christianity. It was filled with mysticism. It included the beliefs in many god forms and reincarnation, all which was hard on me because I was having trouble believing in just one god and believing in one afterlife rather than many.
I read a book by Douglas Monroe, The 21Lessons of Merlyn: A Study in Druid Magic and Lore. One thing I really liked about this book was its focus on nature. It said that any time I could not find an actual teacher to help me, I should go out to nature and a teacher would reveal itself. So I decided to look at the great outdoors. I decided to travel to Elk Falls is located in southern Elk County between the Elk River and Wildcat Creek. The place was just about a two hour drive east of Wichita. The falls were near a town. There was a small road going to a defunct bridge that was out. The falls were not that big, but there were plenty of places to swim in the tiny river and lots of wild life and open land around the spot. I could be out in the forest without any people around me to interfere in my religious experience.
Elk Falls is in the Kansas Flint-hills and it is one of the more beautiful places in this state to enjoy nature. The river is almost crystal clear. When standing along the shore or wading in the shallows of the stream, I can see small fish swimming by. At times I can see snakes, turtles, crawfish and other wildlife that I enjoy seeing in such a place.
There are lots of trees and high thick green vegetation all along the stream. There is this large falls that is only a few feet high. A mill use to be located on this falls and there are still metal hooks where once used to hold the equipment to the foundation. As with most streams in the Flint-hills, there are plenty of rocks and gravel that prevent that muddy look that many rivers and creeks have in this state.
There are plenty of birds flying overhead, including vultures and hawks. Most people don’t appreciate the beauty or a vulture, but I do. They have a majestic look to them, their heads are interesting and they have huge wing spreads.
I set up a fire and put out my sleeping bag. I popped open a beer from a six back and began to enjoy my stay at this scenic natural spot.
Still, no major revelations came to me. Even after I finished my last beer, I still felt the same. God never came and revealed himself to me.
However, before I went to sleep, I began to think about my box turtles I had in my turtle pond pen. I had about six turtles. By their coloring it is easy to tell the sex of a Kansas Box Turtle. They have bright green heads and bright reddish eyes. I noticed they had no desire for friendship from each other. I fed them earth worms and they readily eat them out of my hand. I noticed they often fought over the worms, even though I always had plenty to go around. They also would bite one or another if one got a worm the other wanted. Even though the turtle with the worm might have finished eating it, another turtle would bit him on the arm. These turtles were not that concerned about accidently biting the hand that feeds them, so I was well aware of how hard they can bite. They can even draw blood at times. Their arms were well protected by the scales that covered them like armor. And yet, I know that the pressure from those bites must have really hurt.
One day I came with their food and one of them had died. I was amazed at how easily they could ignore the dead turtle and eat those worms as if nothing had happened. During the spring and a few times in the summer, the males would hunch the females. So they were tolerant of female turtles, but seemed to hate all those of the same sex. The female turtles were just more easy going and less aggressive. But I realized these animals had their own culture and their own rules to live by. It was truly amazing.
I had read about the Greek philosopher Theodorus the atheist and follower of the Cyrenaic school, He believed that people should seek pleasure and avoid pain. He also said he saw little value in friendship and that it was just foolish to risk a person’s life for patriotic reasons, such as taking part in war. He lived most of his life around 300 BC. Still, I was amazed that he had adopted a philosophy outlook similar to my turtles. He lived a little over 2,000 years ago, but the turtles probably had him beat by at least a few million years of evolution.
So what did I learn? I had to remind myself that the green turtles were far friendlier to each other. My cats liked being affectionate with me, so I knew the turtles had no monopoly on animal philosophy. Just as people’s beliefs differed, so too did that of animals.