I’m not really sure I ever had religion. As a child, of course, I told people I was Catholic and I can still recite Mass as it was when I was young. As an adult, I often went to Mass, in pretty churches with priests who gave more intellectual homilies, to–well, obviously–meditate, relax, find security and comfort. But it never felt like religion, never like belief, never like an identity or an imperative. For a while, I said I was “raised Catholic” and then reached a point in my life when no-one ever asks what religion I am.
I have, I suppose, always believed in a Right and a Wrong and the necessity of creed for establishing them. But I don’t suppose I ever believed in Heaven, Hell or divinity for enforcing them. The former make sense; the latter is too fantastic. What is missing in caring about Right, Wrong and the capital-G-Good in the absence of religion is, of course, the motivational structure.
I have many friends who did the 10-day gratitude challenge at Facebook. I was thinking about it this morning, making the coffee, and thinking about the liberal, modern Hippie Jesus. The one who is most concerned that you are treating everyone as your brother and striving to be better at loving everyone. The one is not so terribly interested in cataloging and punishing your failings, if you–yourself–are considering them, sorry for them, and working to not keep creating the same harms to others and to yourself.
Then I devolved into some very muddled thinking about how to have institutions that create a culture of that principle: that there is a Right and a Wrong and the first principle toward reaching Right is caring for other people. Not “caring” in the passive sense, but in the active sense of doing things which intentionally contribute to the well-being of the people around you.
I am grateful for proximity. Last night, Will and I walked the one-third of a mile to my sister’s house, had a delicious cocktail, a cheese course and talked about things. I am intensely grateful for that one-third of a mile.
I am no less grateful for the somewhat less convenient 34 miles to my parent’s house.
I am also grateful for the four miles over park trails proximity to my office. And the wealth of wonderful things in the one mile radius around our home. I need to stop thinking of some of those things as so far away.