I’m a Boomer, and if I were Jewish, I’d have celebrated my Bar Mitzvah the same year Canada celebrated it’s Centennial. I have a Centennial one dollar bill from that year, no serial number, just 1867-1967 and the stylized Centennial maple leaf. But this column isn’t about money, it’s about Faith. I don’t have any.
That’s not strictly true; I have faith the sun will rise in the morning, I have faith tomorrow will be another day, unsullied by regret and remorse, I have faith spring will follow winter, leading to sailing season. But I don’t have Capital “F” Faith. Religion. Spirituality even, nada, de rien, bupkis.
The whole idea that we should organize our lives around the primitive origin myths of an obscure desert tribe is puzzling to me. The Roman Pantheon makes more logical sense as a metaphor for our existence, the Greek gods of Olympus even more so, with their petty jealousies and eternal squabbles.
Truth be told, if they had the box on the census form, I’d check “Pagan”. A tree is a miracle worthy of worship, ancient proverbs aren’t. Being a Pagan means honouring the Earth and all its creatures and things. You can honour an apple by eating it, same with a chicken. You can honour a tree by cutting and using it to make things and provide heat, but you honour nothing by cutting every tree in the forest. That’s the kind of fuzzy, non-linear thinking I use to explain my moral choices to myself. That’s Pagan.
I know a columnist in England, a High Tory as Blue as they bleed, who calls himself, rather than a conservative, a ‘situationist’, and I appreciate the rubbery flexibility of this notion. Judgments are made based upon the facts of the situation at hand, moral choices to follow. Except it still begs the question of what choice to make when the situation offers nothing but bad choices.
This is where most people need faith; faith that they’ll get through this despite the odds. A Pagan doesn’t question fate, just tries to learn how cruel it will be. Pagans don’t pray for assistance, they look for omens and portents that will tell them what fate intends.
This is where both morality and mortality come together. Someone who makes his or her choices without any expectation of reward is more likely to face their end with equanimity, secure in the knowledge life was well-spent, not spent on the afterlife. Pardon the excursion into cheap philosophy.
Polls tell us more people consider themselves ‘spiritual’ nowadays than describe themselves as ‘religious’. The difference seems to be not having to go to church, and attendance is at historic lows. This isn’t a Boomer phenomenon, but it is our reality too. Our parents were the last religious generation. I don’t know anyone who attends church or could be called religious. My late brother-in-law was a devout Catholic, but he was the rarity, not only among our family, but among his own.
Friends of mine will gather at the Solstice to greet the rising sun, and Yuletide is always celebrated by everybody, regardless of faith, with pagan abandon. But not much God is involved, thank you. God’s gotten a bad name lately, with crazy preachers calling for mayhem in his name, but that’s what you get when you let a deity dictate your moral choices to you; there’s no one there to take responsibility.
In his novel Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut (the Boomer Shakespeare) described the religion of Bokonon, which is based on the fact the deity doesn’t care about you, so you might as well do the right thing on your own. If everyone did this, used their own good judgment to make their most important life choices, instead of relying on ancient moral codes or bearded invisible friends, wouldn’t we be happier with the results, knowing we had only ourselves to blame?