Connectivity— My Religion
“I heard you talking earlier about religion. And I was just wondering what you believe in? Are you religious?”
– JP (head ranger & my friend)
For a few extended seconds, I stared at JP. It was the first time in a good long while that I’ve been asked to play the religion game.
Growing up, I had only one definition of religion- Catholicism. And it didn’t take long before I started rebelling from its singularity. When forced to attend the 2-hour monologue of the old, white priest who’s name I never bothered to learn, I would come fully equipped with two Scooby Doo coloring books and a plethora of Crayola crayons. I essentially plugged my ears with crayon wax.
But, it’s been awhile since those days of Scoobs and my well-worn crayon set. This past year, I’ve begun to bat my lashes at religion— flirting with the idea of my spirituality. First in little ways— like saying “oh my god” without cringing when I hit the G-word. Then in less subtle ways— like starting to listen to podcasts like “The Body’s Grace,” and “TV and Parables of Our Time,” produced by On Being, a faith-based radio show that looks at all forms of religious expression (science even makes the cut!). I’ve been working my way through Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, and recently started reading an ancient Hindu text called the Bhagavad-Gita, “The Song of the Lord.” In other words, I’ve started hanging out at the religious bar across the street. Not quite a regular, but not quite a stranger either. You can find me there at happy hour flirting with Buddha or talking sports with Mohammed.
It’s a bit scary though, well, terrifying actually, to cultivate this new sense of religion and to make peace with Catholicism and Christianity. It’s hard trying to figure out what you believe in, and more importantly, what you want to believe in. Religion requires that you dive into a dark-well not knowing if you’ll land on a soft down mattress or the hard, unforgiving dirt, and that is s-c-a-r-y.
But, faith can’t be had without doubt. So, despite fearing the unknown, I’m choosing to believe anyway. I’m trying to keep myself aware and open, trying to find out how we are all connected. At night, in my bed, I send out invisible feelers that can reach through time and space. Invisible feelers that search for other souls like me, other people who are trying to believe despite all the reasons not to.
And, eventually, they find a hold.
In some deep, dark well, those feelers discover another soul, another person struggling to believe in something else, in something deeper. I breathe in and out slowly, almost holding my breath. Then I fall asleep knowing I’m not the only person searching for connection.
Just as New York awakened my connection to other people, the time I’ve spent in the South African bush has awakened my connection to the other souls inhabiting this life, to the souls of the animals and trees, the soul of nature. It’s so easy, especially after living in New York City, to think we can live without the wilderness, to think we have conquered Mother Nature.
But, the lives that surround me here show me the fallacy of this. Between the sky-reaching cliff faces and the low-lying plains of golden grass and the wise, crooked Marula trees—the African bush is our Eden. It’s the place of our beginning, of our genesis, our origin. And when I say “our,” I don’t just mean humankind but animalkind as well. Between all living things, there is a connection, the thread of understanding or God or breath or whatever you want to call it. But, regardless what you write on the “Hello my name is” sticker, we are all connected.
And when a pair of dull scissors cuts one of those connections, deletes it from the planet, we all feel it. Maybe not at first, but eventually. Call it Karma. Call it connection. Call it justice. Call it judgment. When that connection is lost, it is lost forever and we lose something sacred. I don’t really know what we lose, but if we lose enough I think we will all become lost. If we realize how interconnected we all are, maybe goodness and light can spread instead of hate and violence and darkness.
– Sarah Doody