As a kid, I had a host of strange ideas about God and faith. I don’t rightly know where most of them came from. They certainly didn’t sound like anything mentioned at the pulpit or in Sunday school. But they were mine and I wore them secretly like a cloak around my throat that could choke me if the strings were drawn too tightly.
I believed that God was a cloud. He lived there too because that’s where Heaven was. Not in space or in another dimension, but in the soft pale blue sky of a beautiful spring day. And He, Himself, was a shapeless cloud that lived in the sky, peering down upon His creation. Sometimes I worried that dark gray clouds and slate colored thunderhead meant he was angry just like the sky looked.
Prayers could only be heard in church. You could supplement your desires with prayers at home, but He couldn’t hear them well unless we were in the walls of the church to boost the signal, I suppose. That’s why I assumed my prayers were never answered; I could only think of things when at home and never in that moment of silence during the sermon where you were supposed to pray.
It was only years later that I decided to dump my faith in God. It wasn’t really my father’s death that did it though maybe that started it all. I liked the feeling of faith even with my weird beliefs. It made me feel secure and a little less tiny.
On This Untraveled Road
A short while ago, one of the members in a group I’m in asked how everyone was handling spiritual matters during quarantine. Not many people responded in a positive light. Most seemed to be reporting issues with connection in general. I think that’s pretty valid since a pandemic is going to leave some of us asking ourselves the big questions and possibly coming up empty.
How can we connect with our gods when life as we know it has effectively been shut down? The world we live in today was not the world we knew twelve months ago. Things seemed relatively sure footed moving down the capitalist hellhole train we’ve been stuck on for years. But now, things have changed dramatically and our lives are in a continued state of upheaval from the relative comfort of our own living rooms. And there’s no clear vision of what the future will entail.
I’ve seen a lot of people worried that the pandemic is a sign or was given to us by the gods, or God. This is another understandable point-of-view though I do not ascribe to it. I think there are people who believe this train of thought who are having a hard time connecting now because it tips their previously held beliefs into a realm they were uncomfortable in exploring, or never even considered. The scales of status quo have been upset and now, everyone is scrambling.
All of this makes complete sense. Our rituals and schedules and comfort in these things has been overturned. We’re working from a different paradigm now, a foreign one in many respects, and the connections once held for the spiritual and/or religious are just as turned upside down as everything else. I can understand why everyone is having difficulties with the connection, with the ability to feel that thread or those threads with the gods.
We’re walking down a road that others once traveled, but it’s been so long since then that we have no frame of reference for ourselves. History talks about things from a wide angle lens. The zoom on peoples’ faith during previous pandemics is difficult to find, so we have no real ease to follow in the footsteps of predecessors. We’re all struggling in a way that, while we’ve all struggled with faith and connection over the years, this is probably one of the biggest upsets many have experienced in their religious or spiritual path.
I personally believe that the positive quotes and messages from my local Catholic church are the same ones people have turned to in times of crisis in the past. Daily, they post some new quote or letter to the parish about how we’ll all weather the storm together even if none of us are physically together. They are constantly trying to offer words of encouragement and comfort while simultaneously trying to build up the [possibly] shattered faith of the congregation.
One Voice is Enough
I did answer the question posed in the group and remarked that I wasn’t having any issues myself. In fact, I felt better about things on the whole and had been able to get a few blog entries going, which has not been the norm in recent years. Averaging an entry once a month to once a week? Abnormal, indeed. But the heart of my answer was that the pandemic and the subsequent quarantine have had very little bearing on my religious shenanigans.
I recognize that a large part of that is due to the local cultus push from both Osiris and Ra. These two have become my primary focus at the moment and I have never seen them in any single place, or needed to pay them homage in typical pagan fashion. Offerings, music, and time spent at an altar were never fully a part of the relationship I was forging with them both. And while I do give them offerings and music in a single place just about every single day, I know that my relationship with them both would survive without either.
I am also a creature of schedules and even working from home, I continue to follow the schedule that I created when we moved last summer. I am awake at the same time every week day, make my coffee, and provide offerings in my “spooky” room for the gods. For the established relationships with my gods, this daily offering is a necessity borne out over the years by how things have crumbled if I didn’t give them regular offerings. But for Osiris and Ra, this daily homage is just the opening salvo on a day that will encompass them in some other form or another.
I have also used this time to focus on my local cultus push. I’ve been researching like a robot, going for walks in the less-active parts of town so that I can draw on local flora to better cement the connections with Ra and Osiris. I am hopeful that the push from the two of them will eventually encompass the rest of my gods, but I’m not there yet. I’ve also been using these walks as the needed quiet time away from my new work station (in my kitchen), trying to play teacher to a sullen pre-teen (difficult in the best of times), and the constant voice of anxiety whispering in my head.
I recognize that I have been very lucky. My work is in an essential industry and remote working has always been an option (even if my boss refused). I knew that, no matter what happened, I would be able to continue to work. And while I would desperately prefer to be in an office, to better separate my already chaotic work life from my home life (I’ve found myself going to my computer to check my emails when I shouldn’t), I am glad that I can at least continue to work.
The schedule has truly helped me the most here, I think. Yes, the other things did too: the already established routine for the gods and the local cultus push from the past few months. But at the heart, I have found that as long as I stick to my schedule, I do much better with the rapid fire changes the world keeps tossing our way.
The World Can’t Drown Us Out
Things have been trying for a very long time. Those of us who have kept an eye on the status of things have long been waiting for something like this to upset the way of life in general. We’ve seen the writing on the wall and knew that shit was coming, we just didn’t know when.
I can preach and tell people not to lose faith now, of all times not now, but having been there before, I know how useless it is. I also know how useless it is to give advice or positive reinforcement in a time when you’re wondering why the fuck you’ve been throwing your energies into this path, these gods for so long. There is no one thing to be said that will make it better and sometimes, hearing advice or encouragement from others only makes it worse. So I won’t do that.
What I will say is that change is never easy. No one wants their life to change, their comfort with the way things were to change, themselves to change. It is dirty, back-breaking, fucked up work that upsets the perceived balance that was once there.
But the balance was never there.
This is the one thing we should remember through all of this. We may have been comfortable and happy with the way things were, but upheaval was always just around the corner. The sheer amount of shit that we’ve been slogging through for years was the reminder we needed that this was bound to happen, even if we wanted to pretend it wouldn’t. The warning signs were all around us, we just needed to see them even if we didn’t want to.
Have a crisis of faith; have a meltdown; have a good or shitty cry; do it up. And once you’ve finished with all of that, maybe you’ll go back to your religious or spiritual tradition with a renewed fervor or maybe you’ll say fuck it and move on. Whatever the case may be, you are the spark of your own faith and only you can light, relight, or blow it out.
Just have patience. Just remember that the shit is far from over. Just remember that there will be more lulls where religion is easy and more slogs where it gets harder. Just remember that you are the only one who can definitively say what does and doesn’t work for you.
And maybe, when all of this is over and things are moving forward again, you’ll take out your faith and see the cracks where it weathered out this storm and marvel at the little light you had with you this whole time.