I stopped believing in Santa before I started forming concrete memories. Consequentially, he has never existed to me as more than a fantasy. I remember snarling to a classmate at the lunch table in first grade that the overweight, red, chimney-spelunker was just a make-believe story, and getting immediately pulled aside by the teacher and told to keep quiet, so as to not ruin the magic for everyone else.
Even at age six, I knew that was pretty backwards.
I have never been a faithful person. Whether this trait arose before or after I was sworn to secrecy about the great Claus, I can’t and don’t care to deduce. Chickens and eggs beget one another, and I’m pretty sure evolution is what made them both. There’s also no point in wasting energy trying to unravel a mystery such as that.
Having no faith– or, at least, no faith in the traditional sense of what faith is perceived to be– has left me feeling empty at many difficult junctures in my life. Knowing in the pit of my stomach that there simply can’t be anything resting in the heavens, protecting me with it’s mighty power, or that the heavens themselves are nothing more than immeasurable space, more empty than nothing itself. It’s entirely unfair to be on the existential side of things; why me, when there are so many billions of others on this planet who believe with the same steadfast conviction in ::something::, as I do in ::nothing::?
To put that same shoe on the other foot– if that something happens to have created me in this way– to believe wholeheartedly that it isn’t real– then it’s not the kind of thing I think I’d like to believe in.
Again with the chickens and their eggs, and the impossible questions they beg.
My grandmother is in the hospital right now, and I am very aware that the state of her health has triggered this typhoon of existential introspection. The Franimal is the strongest, spunkiest, most gorgeous little woman I know. Becoming jerkily aware of her mortality has made stomach-sinking waves in my psyche.
She is, and has been, religious her entire life, and I know that her faith will bring her peace to her deterioration– either by healing her body, so she can spend more days on this Earth, or freeing her from pain and letting her body rest. I am selfish, I am human and I do not believe in the afterlife, so I am praying– if an atheist can do so– that she won’t leave. Not just yet.
But I must be a realist; we all must. And faith makes that realism less of a burden. Certainly not easier, but carried by shoulders other than your own. A sharing that, no matter how many damn episodes of Barney I watched as a curly-haired little hell-raiser, I never learned.
2012 is supposed to be the end of the world, I guess. But every year is the end of someone’s world. If it turns out to be the end of everyone’s at at once, it won’t actually be as catastrophic an event as everyone’s afraid it may be. Tweezers or waxing, doesn’t make a difference– the end result is no eyebrows.
And the human race is hardly as significant as eyebrows on the face of the universe.
Though a higher power falls outside my radar of things I’ll accept as legitimate, I do have a different kind of belief. The belief that, while there is no order, there is always an opportunity for goodness to come, because in terms of basic perspective, something better is inevitably in the future.
That is not to say that suffering doesn’t exist. “This too shall pass,” true; but before it passes, it will be awful, and knowing it’s going to end doesn’t actually make it hurt less.
But hope is not a sensation specific to the religious. Hope exists for everyone who knows that all things have the capacity to change, and that they will. For better, or worse. To hope is to always err on the foresight of better. So, though I may not be one of the faithful, there is hope for me yet. I’m not one of the faithless.