I am usually on a jam-packed freeway when I have the same thought I have when I am on a jam-packed airplane thirty-plus thousand feet in the air: I am tiny; therefore my problems are minuscule. These are great moments when suddenly the entire world, including the one that lives inside my head, shifts into perfect focus. Despite the drug-like high of this aha-moment, something disturbing niggles at me; taunts me like a fourth grade con-man trading a kindergartner a nickel for a dime–having convinced the youngster that bigger is better. I figure it out fairly quickly as I am taking the exit home: enlightenment is not a panacea; nor is it a miracle-drug, even when it feels like one–despite its miraculous size and feel.

Understanding how life works, that there is no resisting it, does not make it any easier to cope with the “part and parcel” atrocities. Just because I know that death is a natural part of life does not mean that I will not bawl uncontrollably, curse uncharacteristically, mask, hide, deny, fall apart…mourn forever. I will never be ready to lose someone I love. Period. There are no zen moments to cover the kind of grieving that arrives with those horrific curveballs thrown at light speed miles per hour–the ones that threaten to pin us to the ground forever. And this is what, right after the enlightened high has worn off and the right indicator light is still clicking, I am left with: the other shoe. When will it drop? Will I be ready? How can I prepare?

This is when I pray; not because I am religious, but because I know of no other way–other than driving into a ravine–to assuage any current or future grief. Praying feels good. It helps me. I like to think that my prayers have an energy that is attracted to other energy, that is attracted to…and so on and so forth, and that good things happen as the result of them. This might be enough to get me through, except for this awful enlightenment thing that feels a bit like intuition–or in darker moments, premonition. Tough times happen to everyone, and though humankind has come up with a plethora of mind-numbing substances to ease the pain, no one has transcended them.

I do not believe that those who have unshakable faith in an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent and omnibenevolent god get to escape my freeway epiphany either. Having supernatural faith may bring a certain kind of peace; the kind that comes from knowing that there is a greater power around to help when life gets incomprehensibly difficult, the kind that brings the blessed assurance that the God in Heaven above will explain everything; but even the most upstanding Christians I know are still suffering, despite the fact that Jesus was sacrificed–despite having Biblical answers to difficult questions.

I am nearly home when the dam breaks; warm tears of gratitude creating black rivers down my cheeks. Pulling over might be a good idea, but I don’t. Pulling myself together instead, I renew my commitment to live and let live; to do the best I can with the time I have been given, to enjoy the amazing people God or science has put into my life, to give more than I take, to develop the gifts I can manage to unwrap, to smile and laugh more, to eradicate guilt, and to keep worry in a teensy tiny box; reserving it only for those times when it spurs me into positive action.

The prayer I say before reaching my driveway winds up being something like this: Please forgive me for not understanding you, for praying as if I am a believer, when sometimes I am not. All I ask is that you will give me the grace, the love, and the strength I need to navigate whatever comes my way. Amen.

It’s what I’ve taken to praying for those who are experiencing tough times: Grace, love and strength for the journey. And then I pray that there is a Great Someone Somewhere to give it to them.

If you click here, you can hear me singing a very rough version of one of my favorite songs (1953) about faith, dedicated to my friend, Sandra: 20120616 165447

This is the mp3 version, for those who cannot open the link above: 6_16_12 4_54 PM

17 thoughts on “Enlightenment

  1. To all who snort that seeing is believing, you have discovered that believing is seeing. Such freeway epiphanies are what make us real. One of my freeway epiphanies was the possibility that we are not here to ask God for stuff, not even important stuff like the strength to endure, but rather that we are here to give him stuff — that he created us to give him something instead of us inventing a god we can beg to win the lottery. What if he prays to us? What if suffering and death are side shows we are to somehow get past, and maybe discover that great something we are to deliver.

  2. A terrific post, Britton. I admire your willingness to suspend disbelief and invoke whatever might be more or less attentive to the human condition. I do feel that we can transcend our circumstances in art/the making of art…and by living in the moment. I was re-entrenched in my Anglicanism for some time until science crept in, turning me back in the direction of secular humanism. I do believe we are all equipped with survival skills that include running or standing one’s ground, facing or fleeing, weeping or being stoical, and summoning our own inner fortitude…but you knew all of that about me. This is beautifully, intelligently and intelligibly written. xxxj

    1. Thank you, Jenne. I had you and your community in mind (and in heart) as I wrote this…alluded to in “atrocities.”

  3. In my own search for connection with something that speaks to the spirit, the only thing I can say with (some) certainty is that the ‘aha’ moment never comes when I willfully seek it. I had begun meditation years ago, in the hope of ‘fixing’ something in me. Then I stopped, simply because I realized I was meditating for the wrong reasons. I’m working my way back in now, not so much with a goal as with the desire to fully and completely be ‘in the moment.’ If I get even five minutes of that — no thoughts, fully present — how wonderful!

    1. Yes…meditation has pulled at me for a while. I had a wonderful experience once where my grandmother’s silhouette was there before me. Perhaps being afraid the experience could never get any better, I stopped. I can hear its siren call again. And as for “being in the moment,” which I strive for as well…I thought of a goofy acronym yesterday: N.O.W.–nugget of wisdom…the point being that in every moment, there is a nugget of wisdom, if only we will be fully present. Thank you dear friend for coming by.

  4. Britton- wonderful, heartfelt peice. I,too, want to “keep worry in a teensy tiny box” and I do try everyday to do just that. once i figure out how to listen to you song, I will. xx elizabeth

    1. Thank you Elizabeth. Worry belongs in a small place; for giving it more only robs us of the good things that require our positive attention…like our creativity!

  5. “Please forgive me for not understanding you, for praying as if I am a believer, when sometimes I am not.”
    This is just powerful stuff. I love that you are original without trying to be. I love that you are authentic without the consciousness of being so. I love that you aren’t trying too hard to be someone you aren’t. I love your Velveteen Rabbit Realness.

    1. Debra, your comment could not have come in at a better time. I was sitting, waiting for Mom to come out of surgery, feeling a bit blue. Then, “bing!” your beautiful thoughts about what I wrote…who I am. Greater validation I could not have asked for. To wrangle with and express my own thoughts in ways that might touch others as well is all I’ve ever wanted to do with the written word. That, and the blockbuster novel, of course! Thank you, Debra. Your writing seems to also come from a warm and authentic place. I love reading you.

    1. Thank you Indigo. It is lovely to meet you. Thank you for visiting-I hope you will enjoy poking around the site. I’m looking forward to reading more of you as well.

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