Sure, I know about God. I talk to God all the time, although, the truth is I’m never too sure who I’m talking to.
Is it God? Or is this just me talking to myself?
The truth is I never knew where I stood when it came to religion. Another truth is I grew up with a religion that did not fit the popular models of the rest of the world. We didn’t have Christmas like the other kids. We didn’t know anything about the Easter Bunny.
I knew who Jesus was but I never knew much about him. I never knew much, other than he was nailed to a cross. I knew a few people seemed to blame my people for doing this. Meanwhile, I never met the man. I wasn’t around when all this happened. All I knew is there was someone named Barabbas and people chose to let him go instead of Jesus. I knew that Jesus was crucified. As a matter of fact, I remember the first time someone told me, “He died for all of man’s sins.” and thought to myself, “Really?” because that’s a lot of sinning and none of it seemed to stop.
As for God, sure, I believed. I believed because I was told to. I believed because someone said, “You have to,” and in fairness, I always wondered if there was (or is) a God, would he want us to be this way? Would anyone want to be loved because people were forced to love them? I always wonder what God would say if he showed up somewhere, like say, 35th and 8th, and then looked around at what we’ve done. Would God say, “Good job, everybody.” and then tell us all to go take five?
There used to be a man on the Westside near a train station. He was looking to hand out leaflets about salvation. And I’d wonder what this meant.
I wondered about the word, “Salvation.” Was it something that only came with a promise about the afterlife? Or, was this something we should look for now? Is this something we should do while we’re still alive because no one really knows what happens next.
I never knew much about God or at least what God meant to me. I knew most of the prayers that I said were the foxhole kind. I knew that I always had my doubts. I knew that I was angry. I knew that my questions were no different from anyone else’s. If there was or is a God then how could he let any of this happen?
I remember a night that I swore I was going to die. I remember the closeness of me nearing the end by my own hand. I could not understand why, if there is a God, and if there was always an answer, then why did I always feel the way I did?
Why was life this way?
Why do good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to the good ones?
Why is there so much pain?
I grew up in a mainly Irish and Roman Catholic town. Safe to say I was the only Irish Jew in the town. Well, in fairness, I am a full-boat of different backgrounds. I am Irish, Dutch, Welsh, Austrian and Cherokee Indian. Aside from my Father’s background being 100% Austrian, my Mother’s side is where the mix comes from. As for being Jewish, well, most people fail to see that Judaism is a religion and not a background. The trouble I had with religion is it sews difference and judgement. This guy’s God is better than your God and my God is better than both of yours put together. As far as I could see, no one I knew was fit to work the door at the Pearly Gates.
I never understood much about the bible stories, least of all the one with Noah and the Ark because I mean, let’s face it, you’d have to build a really big boat to fit all the animals onboard. And who was going to catch them all? Ever walk up to a wild animal. They’re not always looking to be friends. Most times they run. But not when Noah came.
I never knew why religion was the way it was or why people choose to see God in different ways. I mean, after all, there’s only one God, right?
At least this is what I was told. as I saw it, we were all part of the same project.
I remember it was February. I spent a cold Saturday morning, sitting in a church after The Old Man passed away. I was just a kid. I was not here by choice. No, not by any means. I was sent here to clean the Church for Sunday’s Mass. This was something I did because I was told to and not because I offered. I was “Away” at the time and living on a farm instead of a correctional facility. I was somewhere in a small Upstate town called Callicoon, New York. The sky was extremely blue and the sun was extremely bright without any warmth for the bones. The trees were all empty of their leaves and the branches were gnarled and vacant. The wind was the kind that whistled and the air was so cold that it stung when it touched the skin.
There was no heat in the Church. At least not for the moment. My toes were cold and my nose was slightly runny. The walls were tall and white. The ceiling was white too and the stained glass windows allowed sunlight to pass through in such an interesting way.
As for the quiet; I could say this was painful and eerie. I can say that I was uncomfortable. I can say that at the front was a tall Crucifix with Jesus pinned to the wood. His head was crowned by thorns and slumped downwards and towards His right shoulder.
I could feel a presence. Perhaps the presence was only me. Maybe this was me in the face of myself because deep down, I knew exactly who I was.
This was me being faced with myself. I was faced with my thefts and the shame of my truth, which was mainly fearful reactions to a life I seldom understood. I felt as though someone was watching me. I felt myself in such a way, as if I were being exposed, although, who was I being exposed to?
There was no one else in the room. No, I was exposed to the truth of myself. I was exposed to the truth in my heart, which was dark at the time.
I was exposed to my own deeds, which was nothing more than quick-thief ideas and schemes at best. I never dared to care for anything else, other than me. I never dared to try. The truth was I had always been dishonest. The truth is there were times when I was exposed to “The light.”
However, I was always afraid of the light (or the truth) because this exposed the darkness of myself and shed truth on my dishonesties.
To be honest, the first time I came to my own opinion about Heaven or Hell is when I caught my first dope nod. I remember sinking downward in my friend Mike’s bedroom. It was dark. There was a little lava lamp on in his room. The nod took on this lofty effect. I felt weightless as if gravity was kind enough to give way. My head was high but my body was low. I envisioned angels falling down from their higher atmosphere, dying as they’d glide down in perfect catastrophe. And me, I envisioned each angel to be a representation of my brain cells, dying off, one by one, and falling from grace into this beautiful version of soft despair.
Somehow, the idea came to me. I remembered the time, back when one of the Holy Rollers caught me in the park. I was never sure why they picked me. I never knew the person. This was nothing more than a strange, random guy, looking to turn me into another Holy Roller. He was telling me that it was time for me to get right with Jesus. He said something like, “This is the devil’s world until God comes back for us.”
My eyes were sinking shut at the time of this conversation. My jaw was hung open about halfway. I was back in town after walking through the dope-den battlefields of East New York, Brooklyn. The crack was finished, which was fine because I learned how to counteract the cocaine demons by offering myself up to the heroin gods. I donated my soul when the fiendishness called. This way I could alter the wiry feelings of my nerves on high alert and soften the expressions of my heightened appearance.
And that was it.
This is where I came up with my ideas between Heaven and Hell. The man told me this was the devil’s world, which I agreed with. So much was happening to me at the time. I was a kid and already seen and lived through experiences that should never be experienced by anyone. I knew what abuse was. I knew all about rejection. I knew about pain. I knew about violence. I knew what it meant to have a gun put in my face and I knew what it was like to hear a gunshot and then hear the sound of a body fly up against the car I was in. I watched someone shoot a man near a drug spot in Jamaica, Queens. I knew what it felt like to sit on the roof of my childhood home with a flask of gin, hoping that lightening would strike me down or something would come along to euthanize me from my existence.
I watched the junkies at the clinic, nodding out, or hanging like string-less puppets as they dangled by invisible threads. I saw good people die young and bad people live long, happy lives. Maybe the man was right. Maybe this is the devil’s world, in which case, who cares anyway?
This could only mean this was it. This is hell. To me, this meant that since I was going to hell anyway; I might as well shove more poison into my system because in my eyes, there was no such thing as salvation. There was no possibility of redemption. No, if this was me then this would be the best me possible, in which case, I would be doomed to hell. This meant I would only be born again to come back here to this godforsaken place I call project earth.
What is salvation anyway? What does this mean?
To be protected?
To be saved?
How could anyone save me when I could never save myself?
I remember hearing people say things to me like, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness but have the light of life.” I remember hearing. “I am the light, the way, the truth.”
I had no idea about the truth. I only knew about the variations of opinions, which are not always true. In fact, opinions are often and most definitely false. Like me, for example. Take the way I saw my life. This was all a lie. More to the point, this was only the way I saw myself which was untruthful at best.
Safe to say that yes, I was faced with the truth of who I was and who I am. Safe to say that I could not pass my own tests of judgement. I know all about me. I know why I do what I do. I know why I wore different disguises and more to the point, I know exactly why I was afraid of the light. I was afraid because light exposes the darkness of my selfish thoughts. In which case, I’d rather not see at all
So do I believe in God.
I do . . .
I met him a few times near 34th street and once by the 59th street bridge after a night out with the boys. I saw God on the morning of His birthday, December 25 in an emergency room where a young girl lay with her body hooked to a machine because she died from an overdose and yet, she came back to life.
I lit a candle with God once and stood with parents that mourned the loss of their children.
I saw God once in a delivery room at the end of February when my youngest child was born. I saw God in the holding cells. I saw God in that Church in Callicoon. I saw God at a few funerals and on a few different occasions when I put myself in danger and God said, “Sorry kid, but you’re gonna have to answer for this one.” I saw God the time I was faced with myself and didn’t like the reflection. I speak to God all the time. Or is it only safer to say that I speak to me because as I see it, prayer is an action.
Praying is an act of submitting to the idea that I am not whole or perfect and that by submitting to prayer, I am looking for something to enlighten me or open my eyes.
A good friend and mentor to me used the word, “Woke” yesterday.
Woke, as in actively awake; as I’m aware of the systemic problems we face; as in aware of me, you, and the being with our soul, which we all have (believe it or not). I want to wake up from this. I want to be good. I want to find out what my salvation is and learn more about my purpose so that I find my salvation here just in case there’s nothing left anywhere else.
And when or if the time comes and I have to face my maker; I just hope he is happy and says, “Good job, kid. Now go take five. We have some more work for you to do.”