23 July, 2004

The holy ghost

Recently a bunch of cranks of the Save-me-Jebus variety reappeared in Central Square. I'm torn between two conflicting desires. One is to rend them mercilessly for their sheer stupidity; the other is to minister to them, like wounded deer, and coax them away from their folly. No doubt they see me the same way.

But I'm somewhat jealous of them, because I have never felt the "holy ghost" in any particular way. My parents are very religious, and I had a pretty traditional upbringing. I have a pretty good understanding of my religion and its praxis, but I've never, ever felt moved by it. It's such a foreign sensation to me that I can't imagine how anyone else is moved by it, either. When I see others in fervent prayer, singing the praises of God with their hands clasped together and their heads bowed reverently, I can only believe that they are faking it. They are pretending to be transported by the act of praying because they know this is what is expected of them.

Not that I'm particularly atheistic - I don't reject religion, per se, and I don't disbelieve in the existence of God, mostly because I'm not cocksure enough. But I can't precisely believe, either. I've never felt the immanent presence of God, the sensation that God is real; rapture, in other words.

The closest I get is when I look at the sky. A clear blue open sky, with pure white clouds floating in it like lazy giants, pierced here and there by a ray of sunlight: that makes my breath catch in my throat and lifts my soul up to the extremities of my body, so that I feel like I might float away for sheer joy. Then I can believe that Dyaus Pitr is there, that beauty is an undeniable testament.

But that's not the mode of worship I learned. The roof of my temple would be the vault of the sky, its idols would be jutting mountain peaks, its oblations rivers and fields of green, its lamp the orb of the sun. Not some rude chamber constructed by mere humans, with icons shaped by hands no more able than my own.

Maybe I lack the imagination necessary to translate the one into the other; maybe that is a faculty others do possess. It's unfortunate, since apparently (as I read in the Srimad Bhagavatam) devotion is the only path left to salvation in this wicked age.

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