Happy… Easter, Pascha, Passover, Ramadan. Happy Nothing.
It’s that time of year, many of us who are testing the faith find ourselves partaking in those traditional religious festivities symbolic with struggle, death, resurrection, and re-birth. And yet again, we have come full circle.
Shed your layers, For winter’s cycle has passed.”G. Kourtesiotis, 2017
I am your Greek-Canadian kid raised Christian-Orthodox
Growing up, it was the typical occurrence to find myself in church on Sundays like most good pupils of the faith. Similar to most of the children I grew up with, I was sleeplessly dragged to Sunday service by my grandparents in the name of faith, less so much by mom and dad.
Growing older, I slowly discovered the ability to make choices for myself, in which case, I found myself falling out of the religion I was indoctrinated with.
This took some time of course. Simply put however, I was unsatisfied with any answers to my increasing questions of faith.
Shut up, don't ask stupid questions! [insert Greek accent]
Faith is funny. If you just have it, or just believe it, it will all become real.
In my adulthood, I found that faith alone would not warrant anything other than simple dreams. Work is the necessary compliment that bridges our faith into our experienced reality. But, I am getting ahead of myself here...
HALLELUJAH! Have Faith, JUST BELIEVE!
Well I couldn’t do that, I couldn’t just believe.
And though I could believe in some thing, I was just too damn skeptical to accept any traditional notions of religion exactly how they were presented to me. With that said, I found myself in a skepticism’s stark shadow.
Testing The Faith, Without Balls
Interestingly enough, I never fully considered myself an atheist while testing the faith. Mostly however, I considered myself agnostic.
Well you know what they say, an agnostic is just an atheist without balls!
So there I was, having transitioned from the ingrained traditional Christian Orthodoxy that raised me, to a maturing borderline atheist-agnostic. I can’t say for sure, but the process seemed to stem out from a relatively young age.
An Educational Regurgitation
World Religions was one of my favourite courses in high school.
The teacher looked to have been well into his 50’s, who also carried himself around with a real hippie-vibe.
There was nothing airy about him, outside the obvious lisp —lithp! sorry. For that matter, he was very formal, and very eloquent, but, you can just tell that he had that dropping acid, Beatles grooving, hippie persona of the 60’s/70’s buried somewhere behind the modern, semi polished high school teacher visage.
Leatht Least bit to say, I liked him a lot. He was a good teacher who did what any good teacher would do:
Shape a students future for the better.
Well, at least that’s how I feel about it.
But with regards to practicing faith and spirituality, his class was intriguing enough to open up my eyes to the many diverse cultural values and traditions that exist across the globe, and its history.
I was still wildly confused. But, I rather enjoyed learning about the different explanations about our time and place here on this plane, alongside varying stories of origin.
In short, World Religions was the kickstart of knowledge toward whatever truth I was looking for.
The Deist Mind
The progression of my education into university was held together by a spot on the varsity football team. Academically speaking, I wasn’t the greatest student, but sport kept me studious enough, and keeping my place on the team meant having to pursue something academic. As a result, I took to exploring the arts, as they were the only subjects to peak my interest.
Continually searching for answers to the solve the purpose of the human experience urged on through various topics: philosophical, societal, psychological, astronomical, and scientifically based materials.
As my studies trickled and trailed through various concepts, I found that my faith, and spirituality had changed yet again. The more I searched, studied, questioned, and pondered, I found myself taking on a deist perspective.
ˈdēˌizəm, ˈdāˌizəm/ noun
1. belief in the existence of a supreme being, specifically of a creator who does not intervene in the universe. The term is used chiefly of an intellectual movement of the 17th and 18th centuries that accepted the existence of a creator on the basis of reason but rejected belief in a supernatural deity who interacts with humankind.Google.
By this point in my life, I was definitely convinced of there being some form of supreme being.
I still called it God, just not openly.
In this respect, I did not want to harbor any confusion as to what God meant to me personally in comparing it to the common conception of things– the almighty father beyond the clouds.
In my belief, a supreme being exists, albeit, one that is very alien to us in nature.
No, I am not saying that God is an alien. But what I am saying, is that God is something truly unfathomable.
He made us, and he took off.
Perhaps he felt the need to sow his wild oats, leaving mother earth hanging in her orbit.
Now we’re stuck here as his fatherless children running amok in Gaia’s playground.
Maybe he’ll come back one day with bread and milk from the corner store.
Furthering the case, I could not believe that God would be so intricately involved in our lives as it is typically played out to be.
And here is where I stood, –or lay on the topic, in bed constantly contemplating, and rationalizing with existence– a deist for a very long time.
Talk About An Origin Story!
Personally speaking, I fell on some really dark times post university– Anxiety, depression, panic attacks, derealization, and complete cynicism among other things.
Was faith testing me?
In one giant blur, my life purpose was broken.
The failed pursuit of a professional football career. My first failed relationship. Growing financial debts. Declining physical health from the years of heavy training and practice. Obscene eating and drinking. And worse yet, the countless head-to-head collisions that came with the sport of itself.
It began to take its toll on me, my identity and everything I knew about myself as a whole was shattering before my eyes. I was disembodied, and very broken.
Getting ahead of myself, these difficult times inspired the journaling philosophy which became Littermature.
God, are you listening?
So, I began a new search.
With no shortage of people finding the almighty God in times of turmoil, I began to look for sources of healing through the classically divine approach.
Faith was testing me.
So too then, I began to pray, to read, and quote the bible.
I began to intentionally practice positive thinking. And in an attempt to solve my problems, my search to find God was a desperate one. But to no avail, I couldn’t find any thing or any one.
God Damn It, You Lost Me Again
Despite all of the sh*t in my life, I could never buy into it fully because it never felt right. Something about it felt too forced, or too fake for my liking, which is probably why it never worked out for me.
I didn’t believe in what I was trying to practice., and though I was extremely hopeful in my shallow approach, my faith was lacking and I felt it deeply:
Hopeless, Disempowering, Faithless!
Despite having no concrete evidence to support the traditional idea of God, the failed outreach to find any DID NOT necessarily cast more doubt on the concept by any means.
What I found, was that I fell back in line with my initial beliefs, I reassumed the deist perspective.
This time however, I peered through an alternative lens.
Your Own God, Re-Testing Faith.
Once again, I looked to reconnect with knowledge that intrigued me in high school. I began researching, and drawing wisdom from the eastern practices, such as Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, and the like.
While continuing to fuel my mind with as many articles, or books that lined up with the knowledge of it, I also took on a slow dive into mindfulness practice. I commonly tried my hand at different mindfulness techniques, all while looking to bridge it over into western psychological practices, like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), biofeedback practice, progressive relaxation, and the sort
All this was an attempt to jump the hurdles of my experience in the pursuit of happiness, to master my own fate, to become my own GOD.
Besides, who better to help myself, than myself.
Testing Faith, Help Yourself Man!
As I furthered this lifestyle in reframing who I was, I kept at my personal practices to overcome my general fears and discomforts. In these attempts, I continuously tried to expose myself to uncomfortable situations to build resilience to them. As a result, my experience and my outlook progressed.
As a result, I began to find a new handle on my being. One of self control, and personal empowerment.
It took a long time, but I was starting to feel rooted again.