Memories From the Balcony – About Belief

It is sunrise again. The city is cool but not too cold. They say that spring will be here soon and that’s fine with me. Daylight savings is just around the corner which means the sunrise will be an earlier occasion.

For now . . .
The wind is moving but its not too sharp that it cuts right through you. I know that times are about to change. Something is on the way, like an unknown letter in the mail. Something’s up. I just don’t know what it is, at least not yet.

I know that tomorrow morning will not be like this one. Then again, no two mornings are ever the same. Nothing is ever truly identical. But that’s what makes every day unique.
Nothing’s the same
No, the mornings are like us, always changing and always moving.
We’re always on the verge of recreating a new moment. As we spin around and orbit the sun, we find ourselves becoming another year older.
Maybe if we’re lucky, we can be another year wiser.
Maybe we’re closer to an answer.
Or maybe we’re closer to an outcome that we’ve been waiting to happen. 

It is beyond me to know whether I am on the right path or the wrong one.
My thoughts on this are simple. Life changes and so do our intentions.
Our incentives change.
We change and while down here in the mix, we’re all on a big wild ride called life.
We’re all moving. We’re all looking to find something.
And me, I’m looking too.

I am looking to create as well as recreate moments that will be more than just ever-lasting.
I want to find my ground and build my foundation.
I want to define what I call my redemption as well as find what I choose as my salvation.
But hey, if I say this then I leave myself open to either judgment or interpretation.

I was listening to someone talk about their beliefs in God.
I was listening to their beliefs and the relevance this has in their life.
I was reading an answer to an open forum where someone added, “May you find Him now,” which is a line (of course) that I have heard for more than three decades.
This comes from a thing called “How it works” and I could tell you more about this but due to a promise of anonymity, I’ll have to keep the rest of this between me and a certain fellowship.

I never thought that I was supposed to be looking for God.
At least not the typical God which people seem to talk about from their lofty spaces at podiums or in front of congregations. 

I was once asked about my belief and my moments of prayer.
I was asked if I am a believer.
Then I was told that I would be damned if I wasn’t one.
I was asked if I am an atheist. I was asked about my agnosticism and, therefore, I was asked about my doubts or the variation of my faith. As well, I was asked about my rejection of organized beliefs.

I am not a person who shares my thoughts on religion or politics which, to me, have become one and the same.
But do I believe?
Do I have faith?
Do I know what’s out there; as in do I believe in the photographs I’ve seen of the loving Mother, Holy Mary, Mother of God?
Do I believe in the Old Testament? Or do I believe in the Qur’an, or the Bhagavad Gita, Hinduism, Buddhism, or do I believe in any “ism” for that matter?

All I can say is that I believe in truth.
I believe that truth is truth yet truth can often be misinterpreted.
For example, two people can see the exact same thing and come up with two different scenarios.

My belief system is personal to me.
And I don’t know what this means.
I know that there have been times in my life when I experienced a state of grace.
I know there were times when I was at my absolute worst yet somewhere, somehow, light came into the dark place where I was.
I’m not sure if I believe in miracles or freak occurrences but I do know that at a time when bullets flew, I wasn’t hit.
More than once.

I know that on this very morning, I have been alive to see 18,432 sunrises which means I’ve seen just as many sunsets.
I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve seen the sun break through the gray clouds.
I can’t figure out how many times I smelled Mom’s cooking in the morning.
I just know that it’s been a while. 

It’s been a long time since I lived in an upstairs bedroom, in a little house, about five houses north of a road called Front Street.
I don’t know when it was that we were all together. By we, I mean me and my knucklehead friends.
I don’t know how we made it through some of our mischief or hijinks.
I don’t know that luck is always the answer to this. 
Sometimes, I don’t think I know anything.

But again, I can remember times when there was a particular moment of clarity.
Maybe this was just a case of the mind waking up to the facts around me.
Maybe these moments of clarity reacted to the contrast in my mind; whereas, I knew about the way I was living as opposed to the way that I should be living.
I knew about my challenges. I knew about my hatred as well as my trained hatred.
And that’s us, right here.
This is all of us, trained to live our lives in a certain way.
We’ve been trained to think and trained to believe.
I suppose my biggest struggle with faith is my gripe with the need to train or coerce people into believing.

I think about it this way – no one wants you to love them because you absolutely have to, at least I don’t.
I don’t want anyone to love or cherish me out of obligation or fear; as in fear that if they do not love me, I will punish them; as in hellfire and brimstone.

But do I pray?
Do I believe?
In short, my answer is that I talk out loud.
I have conversations.
I do this because, to me, prayer is an action.
This is a means to a search and my prayers are a request to help me with my search.
That’s me. I’m a searcher, alright!
I understand the idea that God helps those who help themselves.

I’ve heard plenty about punishments and the ideas of a punishing God.
Then again, I remember hearing someone say, “God doesn’t punish people. People punish themselves.”
I would say this is true.
Furthermore, I would think that we as people have cornered the market on judgment and punishment; which again, this is why I walked away from organized religions and manmade beliefs. 

I know there was a night where the moon was full and my heart was heavier than a stone.
I know that I was looking up and talking. That’s it.
I was just talking. 
I know that in the end, I felt better because I released my own demons to the sky.
And yes, above all things – I do believe in demons, especially personal ones.

I believe in hardship. I believe in the sad and vast complications of depressive thinking and the heartbreaking devastation of wanting everything to end.
I believe in the commonality of this idea and how desperation comes to people when it seems as if there’s just no other way out.

I do have a connection with something.
I have this thing in me. That’s the only way I know how to describe it.
I have a light inside of me. I have hope, even when I was hopeless or lost or down to my lowest point; I knew where something was in me.
I knew about the contrast between my good and evil; therefore, this is why I avoided the lighthearted and the brightness of good people. 
I stayed away from them because they exposed my truths.
Maybe this is why I was so hateful towards them.

I never had a so-called religious leader.
I used to know a man though. 
I never assumed he would become famous nor did I ever expect his reason for fame would be both tragic and fitting. 
I will call this person Mike.
I’ll call him this but, in fairness, everyone knew him as Father Mike.

I never met anyone so wholesome or loving.
I never met a person who cared enough, even for someone like me.
Even when I was outraged and angered, and even when I was the aggressor and vengeful; Mike never turned away from me.
He never said an unkind word. 
No, he just smiled at me and said hello.

There was a time when I was on the edge. And I would see Mike.
I would see him coming and I would roll my eyes but at the same time, I had respect for him and his position.
I say this in full awareness that while I admit to rejecting the Church, I always respected the collar because, to me, the truth is I don’t know who God is or where he lives.
But back then, I figured that if God is anywhere close, I’d rather have him as a friend because I already had enough enemies. 

Father Mike was casualty #0001 on Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001.
He wasn’t my priest.
He was my friend.

And to him, if Mike was here, I’d have argued that even with all of his beliefs, he still died the way he did.
I would argue that how could God (if there is a God that is) take someone like him?
Mike would probably tell me that God called him home.
Mike would probably say that there was a lot going on that day in September.
He would tell me that he was needed; that a lot of people were scared at the hour of their death and it was his job to help them get through from this side to the other. 

Mike never lied to me. So, if Mike said this to me, then I would believe him.
But Mike isn’t around to tell me about these things. 

Man, I was so young when he knew me.
I was filled with anger. I was confused. I was young in this thing we called sobriety.
I was afraid.
I would never tell anyone this – at least not back then.
But I was caught up in my own confusion.
I was locked in the seat on a ride that no matter how loud I screamed, the ride wouldn’t stop and I just couldn’t get off.

Mike knew this about me.
He put his hand on my shoulder once.
If you don’t know then you can’t know.
If you don’t know what it’s like to be at war with the world and then suddenly, like a dove to represent peace, someone comes along (like Mike) and puts their hand on your shoulder, as if to say “hey, I’m right here if you need me” – at the time of this, I swear, this was life-saving.

I don’t argue about the existence or the relevance of God.
I seldom share my beliefs and I never argue with people about theirs.
I also never entertain someone’s opinion of me or my beliefs; therefore, I just nod and move to the side.
I know me. I know what I believe.
No one else needs to approve.
More than anything, I know that the same as there are demons in this world, there are angels as well.
I know this because I met one of them. His name was Mike.
He was my friend.

It’s been a while since I passed the church on 31st Street.
That’s where I used to see him. 
These days, if I want to see Mike, I just talk to the clouds.
I do this because Father Mike told me that if I ever needed, he would always be there to listen to me.
And I get it. Always is a very long time. But Mike never lied to me.
So, if he said it, that means he meant it.

So lastly, do I pray?
I guess my answer is yes.
Do I miss Father Mike?
I miss him the same way I miss my old skyline when The Towers stood tall.
I miss him the way I miss my youth.
I miss him the way I miss the hand that comforted me when I was at my worst.

If there is a God and if he’s listening to me right now, then please, tell Mike I said hello.
Let him know I miss him.
Let him know that noontime ain’t the same time as it was “back then.”
Also, let him know that I’m okay.
Tell him that I’m doing better.
I’m not where I want to be but I’m not where I was either.

Tell Mike that I love him.
Or better yet, let me go up to the roof, high above the buildings in Manhattan –
this way, I can tell him myself.

Not a lot of people can say they knew a real, live Saint.
But I can.

I can say that I knew him well.
But even better, he knew me too.

Sleep well, my friend.

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