Why do kids believe in magic? And Santa Claus, Hell’s Angels, and God?
Why do they spin till they’re dizzy? Why not laughing gas, contemplation, meditation, drugs, ecstasy, rapture, or bliss?
Why does everyone wish they could fly? Or be famous, have courage, become rich, or rule the world?
Why is it we live on this plane of existence–school, work, dating, marriage, growing old–but wish for belief in another kind of existence, one that thrills and exhilarates us? What are we looking for that we don’t have?
My father was no magician, but when I was four he made a box of matches in his hand disappear, and then it magically reappeared on a bookshelf from which old fat Uncle Scott was slowly moving away and eyeing me. When I saw that book of matches on the shelf, my eyes bugged out and my heart swelled up, not from joy or wonder, but from consternation and anxiety, desperately trying to figure out how the matches got there and what kind of universe I was actually living in. It was obviously magical, but what I wanted was for someone to explain it to me, and my father never did. So a large portion of my life has been spent in looking for answers.
Years later I went to a university bookstore and looked up philosophy, boring. Then to “comparative religions” where the pictures were a lot more interesting, but God looked like an elephant or a myriad other beasts and men and I became dizzy. So, I went out and looked at the stars, I like looking at stars, and looked in the mirror, and racked my brains and felt like I’d never get an answer.
It was the same sort of despair as I had when I was three years old and not tall enough to see the top of the kitchen counter. I thought it would take forever to get big. My mother came home from the cannery one day and found me sitting on the kitchen floor with her mixing bowls, and flour and sugar and water and oatmeal scattered all over. I have no memory of this, but she told me that she thought I was trying to bake something. Maybe I was trying to put together my version of mud people. The Chinese believe they were created out of mud by a couple of dragons.
Why do people of every big and little tribe on earth think they were created by Thor or Grindel or the Great Spirit or a scad of other visages that I have neither time nor inclination to look up on Google? And why does every tribe think that there’s a happy hunting ground, nirvana, heaven, or, for the lesser souls who need a licking, as if life on earth wasn’t a licking enough, PURGATORY!
Remember those “comparative religion” books I mentioned? Besides great art, the world’s religions also have principals and teachings with a remarkably similar outlook. So I thought, why don’t we look at service and sacrifice, helping old ladies cross the street, consideration, courtesy, candor and charity and compassion, determination, generosity, trustworthiness and truthfulness, mercy and healing and forgiveness as that other kind of existence that might “thrill and exhilarate” us, or just make us dizzy? And where would the gate, those “Pearly Gates,” of heaven actually be?Would they not be the door to your own heart? What else could heaven be? A souped up version of Disneyland?
Whether it is or not is still up for grabs, but for me there is some satisfaction in knowing, more or less, the direction I want to travel in the universe I happen to live in. You, of course, need to figure out what universe you live in. I’m fairly certain that no matter how much mystery we may discover on our particular paths through life, when we get to the end there will be far more mysteries than we could ever imagine. Then will the real bliss come. After all, we are now only mud people.