Thinking About Thinking

I gave up my childhood religion of Catholicism … and, for the most part, God … when I was eighteen years old, then spent most of my adult life seeking a Higher Power in the same way I earned a Masters and a PhD in engineering … reading, studying and above all, Thinking.   I read any spiritual literature I could find, as long as it didn’t say Jesus or Christian on the cover … I still carried too much bitterness toward my childhood Catholicism to venture there.   I was furious when I picked up William P. Young’s The Shack only to find it was a heavy-handed Christian book in spite of a cover that gave no clue.  I read New Age books like Dan Millman’s The Way of the Peaceful Warrior and books on Judaism, like Harold Kushner’s Living a Life That Matters.  I read about the Kabbalah in The Secret Life of God by Rabbi David Aaron and about Eastern religions.  I learned Transcendental Mediation from the Maharishi guy.   Eventually, I even read The Unvarnished Gospels,  Andy Gaus’ literally translated version of the New Testament.  My shelves are littered with spiritual books, many abandoned halfway through.

When I began to attend 12-Step Meetings, I’d hear people in awful situations go on and on … or so it seemed … about this Higher Power of theirs that helped them through the hard times.   I came into my 12-Step meetings talking.   I could articulate my struggles with believing in God and expound on the exact nature of my progress.  People kept telling me to borrow their God until I found mine and take it One Day at a Time.  I listened and I read and I thought (thinking Thinking was the One Way) … I even tried out their God … but I couldn’t convince myself that I believed in God, although I sometimes acted as if I did.   I sometimes said I was an atheist who called himself an agnostic because he was afraid to be an atheist.  Someone told me that intelligence was a hindrance in working the Steps.  Mostly, that pissed me off.  I was secretly jealous of those who seemed to find God so easily … I secretly believed they were saying they believed just to fit it.

There were a few things I learned that turned me around.  Someone shared in a meeting that, I think I’m really an agnostic but my life seems to be better if I act as if I believe.  It was the first time I thought about coming to believe in a Higher Power as a pragmatic thing, something I would choose to do because it made my life better.  Down the road, someone said, It isn’t intelligence that interferes with working the Steps, it’s ego.   Getting permission to take my precious intelligence along on my spiritual journey helped and I’d already recognized arrogance as a defect of character to be dealt with.  Then in one of Rabbi David Aaron’s books on the Kabbalah, I read that God is truly unknowable and that the things we think we know about God are just metaphors that help us have a notion of how God acts in the world.  In other words, my belief in God is not bound by my conceptions of God.  That helped me make a decision to believe in God that carried me for a number of years, not looking for proof but for evidence.  About a year ago, after 39 years of seeking, something clicked.  I came to a belief in God that has a lot more to do with accepting what is than praying for what I want.  I still go back to my collection of spiritual books for useful metaphors but they aren’t a requirement for my belief in God.

Do you remember the TV show, Columbo?  It starred Peter Falk as Lt. Columbo of the Los Angeles Police Department.  According to Wikipedia, the show wasn’t a whodunit but a howcatch’em because the audience got to witness a homicide at the start of the show.  The plot concerned how Columbo would figure it out.  The perpetrators of the crimes were often upper class, educated and articulate and are lulled into a sense of security by Columbo’s working class style. Week after week, we got to see that sophistication, class and education is no match for commons sense intelligence.  I have a friend in my Men’s Group who is my Spiritual Columbo.  He often says that he’s listened to me and the other over-thinkers in or Men’s Group for years talking about God and he was happy to do the heavy lifting.  He’s taken a very pragmatic approach to exactly the same destination I’ve reached.   There was a time I’d have wondered why, with all my intellectual gifts, I had to work so hard.  These days, I know that Thinking isn’t the only way to work hard.  And I value having a brother at the same destination, regardless of how he reached it.  In fact, I like knowing that there is not One Way, but Many Ways.

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6 Comments on “Thinking About Thinking”

  1. Tomas Says:

    Yes, there is not One Way, but Many Ways indeed, but there is One God.
    I’m hard to put my wanderings in English because it’s not my native language. All I know about English was get through the English Lithuanian dictionary. Nevertheless, when I am thinking about Jesus Christ our Lord, love fills my eyes and the needy words come out if the heart as if of itself.
    Welcome to Art by Tomas

  2. Paul Kinder Says:

    Lovely post and I love the gentle humour that runs beneath the surface. I too am a lapsed Catholic, so many of us. Is there a God? Does it really matter? Personally, I’m convinced that God is the answer to the things that are beyond our understanding. Isn’t it enough to marvel at the mystery and beauty of life without having to have answers. Keep seeking, keep reading, it makes the mystery even more incredible.

    • oldereyes Says:

      Thank you, Paul. The way I’m built … or the way I was built … I can’t stop seeking. As I said, I find my life is better in believing, so I believe.

      • Paul Kinder Says:

        I’m glad, and hey you have plenty of hours left on the clock yet. Some of history’s greatest achievers didn’t get into their stride until their sixties and seventies. 🙂

  3. territerri Says:

    This is so encouraging. I often find myself fighting against the faith in which I was raised. I’m not entirely sure why. It may be that the ones who invested so heavily in my religious upbringing often appear so hypocritical to me. It might be because I have never been one who accepts being told what to do, what to believe, and I want to figure this out on my own and see something they couldn’t show me. Regardless, your comment about accepting what is instead of praying for what you want seems to resonate with me. I’ve heard the idea before. I’ve just never even come close to feeling as if I understood it until I read this post. Thank you for continuing to share your spiritual journey with your readers.

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