#276: The Purpose, Part 2

silhouette of trees at sunset

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When I was younger, I was obsessed with the question of whether God was real or not. Now, later in life, I don’t think about that question much if at all because I’ve matured into realizing that, regardless of God’s existence, we still have to try our best in our lives to leave a positive impression on the world. That, whether or not we live in a world governed by a higher power that will judge our actions in the afterlife, it’s still important for us to act justly and morally and ethically always in all the things we do. Don’t cheat, don’t lie, don’t steal. Don’t break promises, don’t act rudely toward other people, don’t lapse into bouts of anger over nothing. Treat others the way you want to be treated.

That’s what our purpose is. Whether or not there is a God, we still must act in a way that is positive. I can only hope that more people adopt this basic philosophy, so that they could stop acting so heinously towards others. Terrorism, white supremacist terrorism especially, is running rampant throughout the United States. Lonely young white boys are posting on anonymous image/message boards, planning attacks on those they feel do not belong inside the made-up boundaries of this country. It makes me sick to think about some of their attitudes, knowing that these are human beings first and foremost, but they’ve forsaken their own humanity.

If humanity is what counts, then be the best human you can be during your life, and the rest will follow. Always work towards justice and righteousness, and never allow intolerance and bigotry to fester around you. There is a world out there for us to create that allows everyone to be treated equally, but it’s a monumental task, and it won’t be easy.

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#275: The Purpose, Part 1

monk holding prayer beads across mountain

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I haven’t written metaphorically in a while, and I want to remedy that with some thoughts about purpose and life.

A lot of us go through life wondering what our purpose is, why we’re here, what reason we have for being alive. I don’t mean that to sound depressing. What I’m saying is, in an existential sense, there may not be a strong, set-in-stone purpose to our lives, and that might be a good thing. Isn’t it better to be free of a greater obligation, so that you can determine your own course in life? Though our lives are, in no small way, impacted by our location of birth, race, gender, sexuality, and a host of other factors, I’d like to believe in the perhaps fairytale-like dream that we still live in a world in which you can freely pursue (but not necessarily achieve) whatever career or profession you want. I completely understand that that may not be true for everyone, especially those who are wrongfully and tragically persecuted and judged by the intolerant, but I will persist in delusion for the time being if it’s my sanity at stake.

Some people, when confronted with this dilemma, look to religion and bolster their faith in a higher power, while others look inward and reflect on the lives they’ve touched, the bonds they’ve created, and the worlds they’ve visited and explored. I don’t think either option is wrong, but I think, at least for me, I’m looking in the latter direction, personally. I like to travel, I like to socialize with people who are good listeners, and I like to reflect on my experiences. I think those things alone are meaningful and significant to me, and I can find purpose in living, knowing that my experiences are meaningful in and of themselves.

The Cross

cross-of-christ-0101

Four years ago, I would have never imagined to be wearing a cross upon my neck. It’s the kind of symbol that represents everything I so vehemently protested against – organized religion, faith, theism, the concept of a benevolent God in such a malevolent world. All in the name of cause. Like an angst-filled teenager, my innocent mind sought to admonish and defame all who supported something so juvenile and impractical. Hatred, like most emotions, starts with a bang and diminishes over time – especially if there’s no real reason for the hatred to come about. It was a trend. It was a story that needed to be told.

The vocal minority, the so-called “teenage scientists,” would hop on the first anti-faith scientific fact out there and spread it, like wildfire, to anyone willing or unwilling to hear. The quest started as a vendetta against some distant establishment, something I didn’t fully understand and still don’t completely get today. But it was on a living room computer during my freshman year of high school where thoughts of rebellion bloomed like brain-fossils waiting to be discovered and placed in my mind’s museum of knowledge and other truths, facts like “God isn’t real,” “Nothing in the Bible can be proven,” or whatever. I had had enough of “faith” in my life; my parents weren’t especially religious; my grandparents were faithful, but aren’t they all? My naivety carried into my reckless and vindictive social media posts.

Imagine hearing “the truth” from a fourteen-year-old’s mouth. People often depicted me as either arrogant, ignorant, or something equally terrible in between. Know-it-all. Obnoxiously, I thought I had the whole theism vs. atheism thing down pat. Like the debate the adult’s were having was meaningless, trite, irresponsible, and immature. What did they know? How immature of me!

Once, in the 5th grade, I sat in Language Arts class during mandatory book-reading time. I pulled out our family’s version of the Bible, King James edition. At the time, I remember imagining that my teacher, Mr. Dwyer, and my fellow students would look upon my sophisticated reading material and feel like I’m a serious bookworm. Feeling smart was one of my top priorities as a bullied and ridiculed young child. But if anything, my sophisticated choice backfired, as Mr. Dwyer informed me that I would need to bring in another book to read for class tomorrow, as the Bible “wasn’t what he was looking for.” What’s that supposed to mean? It planted seeds of distrust toward faith which would later bloom.

I remember visiting our local church for confession when it was necessary. The idea of repenting every one of my sin’s to a supposedly-non-judgmental individual in the role of a priest, or deacon, made little sense to me. And, even worse, the gleam of “God knowing everything you do, and all of your sins regardless” made this mandatory act appear much more superficial, and meaningless, and awkward. That’s why I hardly told the whole truth to the priest I spoke to: I would say, “I said vulgar words in front of my parents before dinner last Sunday night,” or something easily repent-able. Nothing too extreme, like denouncing the concept of God, the validity of the Bible, and such, as I actually was doing at the time.

I wasn’t the only one. Many posters on the internet, from various websites and forums shared my previous sentiments, and probably still share them to this day. It’s the culture that the internet can have on an impressionable, attention-seeking, young child with untrustworthy friends and parents, who found a way to relish in every small and disappointing mistake I made along the way to this age. And I don’t claim to be the most unique individual in the world for having undergone a long phase of unwarranted hatred, turned gradually into a distant appreciation for the religion I so despised.

The point of this story is to inform you, whoever ends up reading this, that all things can change. I now have an incredible appreciation for all faiths, and those who believe in them. It’s a wonderfully indescribable thing. And I disagree with those who go out of their way to destroy the one core belief that their human psyche may be founded on: a faith, a chance. In a world of so much hatred, we need love.

In a month’s time, I discovered the fragility of man. I looked into the face of my dying grandfather and couldn’t control my tears, like raindrops after a sunset. He wanted me to wear his cross, something he never took off since he got it, as a Born-Again Christian. He wanted me to have it. It was one of his wishes for me. For the past month, he has undergone a list of terrible procedures and surgeries to get him on the right track. But after every procedure, he looked worse. More uncomfortable. Less at peace.

That’s why my family made an incredibly unbelievable effort to ensure that my grandfather, the great one, would pass in peace. He deserved a peaceful, calm end to such a long period of medical trauma and misgivings. It was a fitting end. He needed peace.

And today, after he passed away in Yale-New Haven Hospital, I visited my grandmother and received the cross he had worn so many times before.

Today, after years of distrust, I vow to never remove this cross from my neck. Today, I vow to carry around an image I deemed ridiculous years prior to work, school, home, and everywhere in between.

I love you pop. This one’s for you. And I will never break my promise.