A person so dear asked me once what gets me going in the morning… I didn’t think so much about the question until a few years later. Is it a prayer, dreams, love, hope, curiosity, music, the smell of black orthodox tea with a frozen mango cube, or cold-pressed green smoothie garnished with organic heart-shaped baby kale? O, is it that? Really? I am not so much of a morning person. I would be if morning happened around noon. So technically, that question does not apply to me. The sun either finds me already up or sometimes I go to bed as it rises. Starting your day with sleep… quite unorthodox, yet refreshing.
Anyway, I think that that question comes from a deeper place than a curiosity for one’s habit or routine. It is not small talk. It heavily veils existential crisis. In a sense, I feel that asking a person how they find meaning in their life, what defines them, is trying to find a connection- that you don’t experience these feelings alone. We want to feel like there’s a reason we exist. Most people are often, at a young age exposed to religion. It provides structure and purpose. They say. Then we start believing. Wait, are we born with the inherent need to believe in something-anything? Or do we believe because we’re taught to? Well, people always want to believe… to believe in something superior, in something mysterious, in anything that denotes powers beyond our control. Believing in these things provides us closure. That understanding why things are the way they are; these things that are beyond our understanding. We want to believe that there is a power that controls the good and the bad; and the things in between.
It is comforting.
We helplessly want to associate inexplicable occurrences with someone or something. God forbid that you fell on the floor because it was slippery. [Of course, it’s not only the grave events that we want an explanation to.] We want something that validates our existence. We want to feel that there is a reason why we exist, that enigmatic purpose beyond our careers, children, and every other thing that we choose to believe in. Religion gives that. Not science. Science does not give that oddly satisfying feeling. Religion however, does. It makes us believe that the world was created with intention. That it was designed. Not the science way. No. That is not mysterious enough.
Human beings are social beings. Religion has helped us form much larger social entities. We’re held together by common beliefs. These beliefs build a feeling of belongingness. Beliefs, however different, comfort us. We are not alone. Even in our sense of purposelessness, we want to feel purposeless with someone. Some people, however, have chosen to be incurably religious. They will believe and worship even absurd objects. Anything that makes them feel that there is a reason why they are miserable or successful. That at the end of their living, they will end up somewhere peaceful, or not. This makes one vulnerable. That is why new religions are cropping up every day. Some to financially benefit from this vulnerability. Humans!
That is why some people will find solace in a colander. They will wear a colander. Yes, that perforated utensil that you use to strain pasta. They have a prayer and commandments. There’s The eight “I’d Really Rather You Didn’t’s” tenets given to Mosey the Pirate which is a parody of the 10 commandments given to Moses that guide them. That’s The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Or Pastafarianism. As you should be able to tell by now, pasta is central to this religion. I wonder if its believers eat pasta, or watch those beautiful unattainable recipes on YouTube that show you how to make homemade pasta from scratch. I love pasta. No. I love spaghetti; and some two other pastas whose names I never bother to cram. If you search for the different types of pasta, you’ll understand why you are not Giovanni… why you might name your child Trofie Rigatoni thinking it is exotic, without realizing that that is pasta.
… then there was the Jim Jones religion. There’s the Faith of the Invisible Pink Unicorn which as the name suggests is symbolized by a pink unicorn. There’s The Bullet Baba’s Motorbike. Wait, what? Okay. All these religions, while you might think of them as facetious and satirical, provide comfort to some people. They explain existence. Where do some of these religions come from anyway? Think about it… someone is overcome by the feeling to validate their existence, it becomes overwhelming, they create something so outrageous and they recruit other vulnerable people to believe in it. Or is it the narcissistic personality that drives people to start their religions? Think about it.
Or, people just want to believe because… I don’t know.
The ludicrousness in religion is puzzling that this issue is addressed, sometimes ridiculed in all media. Movies, art, songs, dance et cetera. One such is The Unknown Saint, a Moroccan comedy/ drama film. No, that description is not my own. If you don’t speak Arabic, be careful not to pick your eyes from the bottom of your screen. The subtitles are accurate though. Get this, a thief buries his loot and disguises the place like a grave. Interestingly, a shrine is built in honor of an unknown saint. People pray by the shrine, they wait for miracles, it becomes a place of pilgrimage, a village blooms, the shrine is guarded, et cetera. All this while, as people suffocate in poverty and drought a stash of cash is buried in the shrine. The unknown saint. I cannot blame these people. It does not matter that the shrine is blown up, but people rebuild it. It is sacred. Why? They want to believe in something. The shrine consoles them. It gives them hope that someone that transcends humanity is watching over them. That their suffering is justifiable. Believe, if you have to.
Is there anyone who doesn’t believe in anything? Far-fetched as it may sound, yes that cold-pressed green smoothie garnished with organic heart-shaped baby kale, while it is not a religion or provides justification for a person’s cardinal existence, is comforting. No, not to me. I recently learned that kales are not what I thought they were, and that has been very confusing. Collard greens… see the things I’ve learned during the pandemic? It’s not a new language or a book that I’ve written, but it is something. Right? C’mon, right?
… can we live a life without believing in this transcending power? Those that do not believe in anything, how is it?