Do you ever play the ‘what if ‘game? It’s akin to the ‘should have’, ‘would have’ and ‘ought to’ conversations we have with ourselves occasionally. I don’t know about you, but I never seem to win that game. It’s primary facilitator is monkey mind. What? you don’t know what monkey mind is. Oh Lord, we need to have a talk.
Monkey mind is the incessant internal chatter happening within the space between the ears. Can’t turn it off, can’t shut it out, can’t override it. On and on and on go the thoughts passing through the gray matter occupying the skull. It is fertile ground for the game of what if.
What if I had married my high school sweetheart? What if I had planned my future as a young man rather than float through the 60s and 70s as a wannabe hippie? What if my parents had tried harder to work out their religious differences instead of divorcing? Yeah, what if?
I’ve become rather good at ignoring monkey mind allowing it to scream its mindless chatter into the ozone. But, sometimes, even 70 years after the fact, I scream back, “what the hell was so damned important about their religious beliefs to let me grow up without a daddy? Tell me, what?”
Funny thing about monkey mind – it’s not very conversational, just wants to rattle on with politics, worries, money problems, relationships, what old lady Jones fussed about yesterday, nursing homes, arthritis, dementia, the sorry state of the union, the price of lettuce, Susie’s boy friend, the cat’s dirty ears, floors need to be mopped – on and on and on. But, after having its way for a while, the noise stops and serenity settles in for a visit.
And all is cool until the JWs knock on the front door, “Do you know where you are going when you die?”
“Hell yes,” I respond in my Donald Duck underwear and fluffies, “I’m going down to undertaker Bob’s place to have a nip and tuck and a transfusion of embalming fluid. Now get off my porch and take your tracts with you.”
Have you guessed by now that I have a hair up my butt about organized religion? When other neighborhood boys were playing pitch with their daddies, I was cooking supper for me and mom because she had to work. When other boys took their daddies fishing, I had to go grocery shopping with mom. When other boys sat beside their daddies in church, I sat beside my mom praying for a daddy like theirs. C’mon, take your best shot. Tell me again what is so damned important about religion that mom and dad had to divorce because they couldn’t agree about Jesus.
You don’t have an answer either, do you? Maybe they both got wrapped up in a lot of fahooey about ‘proper’ Christian behavior. Maybe they listened to parents and pastors instead of their loving hearts. Maybe they listened to theatrics and drama from the pulpit rather than humility and compassion. My time on this earth has shown me that there are innumerable examples of what organized religion gone astray can inflict on the devoted masses.
Extortion, persecution, subjugation, enslavement, murder, genocide – all in the name of God. Not just Christian, but Judaic, and Muslim, too. Maybe I’ve got this God-Jesus thing all wrong. What if God is judgmental, wrathful and vengeful condoning murder and intolerance of the infidels? What if Christianity is the only truth amidst all the world’s faith creeds? What if? What if? What if? Aw hell, there goes monkey mind again running the conversation.
I don’t know if Shakespeare was a man of faith or not. But I do believe he nailed it with his line from Hamlet: “This above all: to thine own self be true. And it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”
Do I know my own self? Do you? We came equipped from the factory with reason and logic. We have a conscience that guides and speaks to us in those questioning moments. We profess an indwelling spirit. Maybe that is all we need to navigate this life in search of enlightenment. Evolving to the higher self intended for us does not need to be rocket science nor religious indoctrination. Shalom.