does not describe me fully
it is where to start

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Religion, My Writing, and Me

“I am wise in this small respect: I do not think I know what I do not.”

It has been a while since I addressed what is, after all, one of the major themes of my fiction and this blog — my relationship with religion. This probably reflects my reluctance, even fear, to address a topic known to raise the hackles of many.

I am also aware of a curious phenomenon, which is that my readers span a startling range of religious belief, from avowed atheists to passionate evangelizers. I sometimes wonder why that is and speculate that perhaps they share or at least respect my impulse to create a big tent under which a veritable bazaar of religious beliefs and disbeliefs can exist.

As stated in my earlier My Religious Primer post: “Except when they resort to violence and excessive proselytizing, I deeply respect the attempt of most religions to seek coherence and order in a world that intrinsically may be incoherent and chaotic.” To this I add that I find the same impulse in nonreligious people as well. You won’t find religions bashed in this blog. Nor will you find proselytizing for any religion or for atheism. I am as prone to cite a Buddhist text as I am to mention a Bible verse or a scientist’s aloof statement regarding matters of the spirit.

But, other than respecting people’s individual choices, what do I believe? In one sense, the totality of this blog describes it. I believe we all follow a deep yearning to be free, to be whole, to live in joy and in safety. I like to hope that we could all love each other even as we don’t know each other. In the end, I believe life is both blessing and mystery.

If that seems childlike, perhaps it is. In one of my novels, there is a tropical scene which inspired this blog’s waterfall images. In it, the infant protagonist escapes her mother’s attention and wanders off to a nearby waterfall. The child's impressions come close to describing my own awe when faced with the numinous dimension.

"She stumbled her way toward the boulder which had a flat ledge about 14 inches off the ground. She scrambled up on the ledge and inched forward on her chest until she discovered below her a stream leading away from a gentle waterfall on her left to another one about 20 feet to her right.

"The air was now so misty it seemed almost iridescent. Even with the nearby rush of falling water, she could still hear birds twittering and the call of a coquí. She slid forward to dip her hand in the stream’s water and slipped. Grabbing the edges of the narrow ledge, she managed to keep from falling into the stream .… Fully covered in mud, she looked around her at the dense green vegetation blurred by mist. She no longer felt afraid. The sounds around her were so soft …. The palm trees, the ferns, the moss-covered pebbles all seemed to glisten, and she felt as if a delicate presence expanded and contracted and wrapped itself around her. "

I embrace the essential Mystery at the core of existence which perhaps only a child can experience without fear. I try mightily not to reduce that Mystery to doctrine. When Socrates says, “I do not think I know what I do not,” that is the extent of the religious wisdom I claim.


Judy Croome said...

Judith, I couldn't have put my own spiritual beliefs better myself. Bravo!

Judith Mercado said...

Thank you, Judy. It seems we share more than a name. Religion can be a scary topic to write about honestly, and it's a relief to find a compatriot.

Nevine said...

Judy, you have such a universal view on religion and on spirituality in general. It is unfortunate that not all people share this universal view. What is fortunate, however, is that each person, believer and non-believer both, can truly find solace in their system of belief or non-belief. I do not believe that religion was ever created in order to establish order. I believe religion was created so people can try and unravel this big "Mystery" you are talking about.

By now, I have discovered that there are some mysteries that are never meant to be solved. I succumb to this thought as it concerns religion. On the other hand, as far as spirituality is concerned, like I mentioned about others, I am content with my personal state of believing in a Higher Power (for lack of a better word) while not practicing a particular dogma. It works for me!

I suppose it is important for each person to seek a place where they can feel comfortable and where their conscience can be at ease... and maybe that is where the ultimate spiritual/religious bliss is found.

And this... "I believe we all follow a deep yearning to be free...," really sums it up perfectly.

Awesome post, Judy. And I have come to expect nothing less, too.


T.Allen-Mercado said...

Beautifully expressed; mystery is by far the best way to describe my view of religion. With respect to those who believe deeply, I add only that, for me- in my spiritual infancy- to fully understand the complexities of such vast mystery would unduly simplify it.

Sun Singer said...

I like your eclectic approach and the care with which you have written about it.


Judith Mercado said...

Nevine: Yes, I do aim for a universal view. It is not always a comfortable place to be when the rest of the world seems to favor taking sides. Interesting that you should like “I believe we all follow a deep yearning to be free...." That originally started out as a poem.

T. Allen-Mercado: You bring me hope that by coming out as I did with my beliefs others will announce they believe similarly. My fear had been that I would only receive condemnation.

Malcolm: Eclectic with care, yes, that about sums it up.

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

This is a bautiful post! I am very religious, but I never make that known on my blogs, really. Thank you for putting this out there!

Judith Mercado said...

You're welcome, Michelle. Putting it out there made me nervous but I am now glad I did.

Mayowa said...


I love your worldview and your expression of it.

There's something beyond the practice of religion, beyond the rituals and the rules. That is what we all yearn for beneath it all.

Thanks for sharing.

Judith Mercado said...

Mayowa, thanks for your kind words.

Brent Robison said...

Hi Judith,

I just found your blog through Malcolm's, and it's right up my alley. I appreciate your praise of the Mystery, and your recognition of the human need to be free. I'm too often angry about what is done in the name of religion, and I respect your magnanimity. My fiction treads a similar path to yours, perhaps. I look forward to hearing more from you.


Judith Mercado said...

Brent, thank you for leaving a comment for this post, as that has led me also to re-read the comments others had left. And I leave with a feeling of fullness and hope.

Sheila Deeth said...

That Socrates quote is very neat--might be applicable to almost any kind of religious belief, or might even define the difference between faith and religion.