I consider my going to church on Sundays as an act of rebellion on my part. My social circle consists mostly of forceful aetheists, some of whom are militant enough to express a desire to have their own Aetheist Church. The world goes in a circle, not in a straight line. Anyway, my going to church is an act of rebellion against my immediate environment. It has nothing to do with my belief (or not) in god. It has to do with my need for disengagement. Sometimes we need to rush out and grab a bit of fresh air. That was what the church visit did to me.
I sat in church and followed the ceremony in a completely detached way. I was not compelled to do so like when I was a child. Here I had a little area of calm and peace where I could dream or be quiet and mechanically stand up and sit down and kneel along with others. Even my meditation these days seems to be focussed on getting somewhere. I am struggling during my meditation sessions to keep my brain empty and inactive. In church I found I had no such restrictions and yet there was no one I had to listen to or to talk to. The phone was silent for an hour. No books to read except the mass card, no philosophical questions to wrestle over or even practical matters to ponder over. I left all such distractions at the church door when I entered. In fact my hour was a blissful zombie state.
This is what I call my state of disengagement. My day is filled with routine from the time I wake up at 7 in the morning. Even my morning walk is timed and rushed to keep my heart rate up. I needed to go somewhere to get a rest from all that goal-orientated rush; somewhere I could stick my finger at the voracious maw of social needs and obligations; somewhere where the priest well into his eighties would talk to us of St Jerome, a man who lived 1700 years ago. Life could not get detached from reality any more than that.
“True” Christians may carp, saying I am using the church for the wrong purpose, that I am not being a “true” Christian. So what? I ask. The church is not the same thing as god. The church is a man made building. So long as I don’t cause any offense by refusing to conform with the rest of the congregation and so long as I am outwardly performing the bodily postures required of me, who is to know what goes on in my soul? My soul is private only to me, and of course god (if it is out there).
But my way is not the only way to disengage of course. We all find a way. Youngsters routinely travel abroad to get away from engaging with their lives at home. This has its limits in that traveling abroad has its own problems and harassments.
The picture above is of a poppy I took some years ago. It ethereal floating in its own air and that is how I would like to be, given a choice.
I am reminded of the times when I was young when we went on retreats. These retreats were conducted in some monastery far from town and it lasted a whole week. You checked in one Saturday and came out the following Friday. The food was simple yet wholesome; it was a silent retreat and the discussions were limited to only certain times of the day and were moderated by a monk; reading was limited to the books, mostly religious and philosophical you were allowed access to; you were shut into the monastery grounds all week. We came out refreshed and able to look at the normal routines of life in a new way. Today of course this would be impossible as the need to conform to politically correct rules and the insistence of “freedom” and the profit making motive that runs through all our actions makes it impossible to have such an innocent pastime as a controlled retreat. The church for me is a mini retreat for an hour on Sunday mornings.
So folks, disengage in whichever way you choose but make it an act of positive rebellion from the norm.